Previous behavioral and neurophysiological research has shown better memory for horizontal than for vertical locations. In these studies, participants navigated toward these locations. In the present study we investigated whether the orientation of the spatial plane per se was responsible for this difference. We thus had participants learn locations visually from a single perspective and retrieve them from multiple viewpoints. In three experiments, participants studied colored tags on a horizontally or vertically oriented board within a virtual room and recalled these locations with different layout orientations (Exp. 1) or from different room-based perspectives (Exps. 2 and 3). All experiments revealed evidence for equal recall performance in horizontal and vertical memory. In addition, the patterns for recall from different test orientations were rather similar. Consequently, our results suggest that memory is qualitatively similar for both vertical and horizontal two-dimensional locations, given that these locations are learned from a single viewpoint. Thus, prior differences in spatial memory may have originated from the structure of the space or the fact that participants navigated through it. Additionally, the strong performance advantages for perspective shifts (Exps. 2 and 3) relative to layout rotations (Exp. 1) suggest that configurational judgments are not only based on memory of the relations between target objects, but also encompass the relations between target objects and the surrounding room—for example, in the form of a memorized view.
- spatial memory