Representations and Processes of Human Spatial Competence


should be sent to Glenn Gunzelmann, Cognitive Models and Agents Branch, 711 HPW/RHAC, 2620 Q Street, Building 852, Rm. 3-312, Wright Patterson AFB, OH 45433-7905. E-mail:


This article presents an approach to understanding human spatial competence that focuses on the representations and processes of spatial cognition and how they are integrated with cognition more generally. The foundational theoretical argument for this research is that spatial information processing is central to cognition more generally, in the sense that it is brought to bear ubiquitously to improve the adaptivity and effectiveness of perception, cognitive processing, and motor action. We describe research spanning multiple levels of complexity to understand both the detailed mechanisms of spatial cognition, and how they are utilized in complex, naturalistic tasks. In the process, we discuss the critical role of cognitive architectures in developing a consistent account that spans this breadth, and we note some areas in which the current version of a popular architecture, ACT-R, may need to be augmented. Finally, we suggest a framework for understanding the representations and processes of spatial competence and their role in human cognition generally.