Spatial mental representations derived from spatial descriptions: The predicting and mediating roles of spatial preferences, strategies, and abilities



The aim of this research was to investigate how spatial self-assessments and spatial cognitive abilities jointly influence the construction of mental representations derived from spatial descriptions. Two studies were conducted using the path models approach to test to what extent spatial self-assessments (Study 1, 194 participants) and the combination of the latter with spatial abilities (Study 2, 206 participants) can be modelled to predict memory for spatial descriptions. In both studies, we recorded spatial representation preferences (distinguishing between survey, route, and landmark-focused mode) and self-reported strategies used to memorize descriptions (distinguishing between survey, route, and verbal strategies); in Study 2, we also measured spatial abilities by testing mental rotation (MR) and visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM). Participants listened to spatial descriptions and then completed recall tasks. In both studies, the final path models showed that spatial preferences influenced spatial recall through the mediation of congruent strategies: that is a survey (route) preference influenced spatial recall mediated by a survey (route) strategy. MR predicted spatial recall, mediated by both VSWM and survey strategy (Study 2). Overall, these findings indicate that spatial preferences (particularly for a survey mode) in association with spatial abilities effectively concur to help form mental representations derived from spatial descriptions.