Frames and Images: Sequential Effects in Mental Rotation

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Recent studies have shown that response time in mental rotation increases with the angular deviation between the current and preceding stimuli, suggesting a frame rotation process in which the intrinsic frame of the previous stimulus is brought into congruence with the coordinates of the current stimulus. In contrast, we show that this process involves image rotation in which the present stimulus is brought into alignment with the orientation of the previous stimulus. Such "backward alignment" succeeds only for shape-preserving sequences (i.e., identical stimuli at different orientations). Four experiments show that the backward alignment process (a) competes with the uprighting process typically found in mental rotation, and the response is determined by the process requiring the shortest rotational path; (b) is related to the tendency to repeat the previous response; (c) is insensitive to the position of the vertical; (d) is indifferent to the representation of the stimulus in long term memory; and (e) is different from the process underlying preparation for a stimulus in a specified orientation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-111
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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