Spatial Visualization in Physics Problem Solving
Article first published online: 10 FEB 2010
2007 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Volume 31, Issue 4, pages 549–579, July-August 2007
How to Cite
Kozhevnikov, M., Motes, M. A. and Hegarty, M. (2007), Spatial Visualization in Physics Problem Solving. Cognitive Science, 31: 549–579. doi: 10.1080/15326900701399897
- Issue published online: 10 FEB 2010
- Article first published online: 10 FEB 2010
- Received 13 June 2005; received in revised form 28 September 2006; accepted 27 November 2006
- Spatial visualization ability;
- Problem solving;
- Visual-spatial working memory
Three studies were conducted to examine the relation of spatial visualization to solving kinematics problems that involved either predicting the two-dimensional motion of an object, translating from one frame of reference to another, or interpreting kinematics graphs. In Study 1, 60 physics-naíve students were administered kinematics problems and spatial visualization ability tests. In Study 2, 17 (8 high- and 9 low-spatial ability) additional students completed think-aloud protocols while they solved the kinematics problems. In Study 3, the eye movements of fifteen (9 high- and 6 low-spatial ability) students were recorded while the students solved kinematics problems. In contrast to high-spatial students, most low-spatial students did not combine two motion vectors, were unable to switch frames of reference, and tended to interpret graphs literally. The results of the study suggest an important relationship between spatial visualization ability and solving kinematics problems with multiple spatial parameters.