Spatial problem solving and functional relations

Kenny Coventry, Simon F. Venn, Graham D. Smith, Andrew M. Morley

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Three experiments investigated the role of object knowledge on participants' ability to solve a spatial arrangement problem. The task was to rearrange six real-world three-dimensional objects so that their relative locations agreed with a given set of rules. The aim of the experiments was to tease out the relative extent to which object association, orientation, and object-specific functional relations affect performance on arrangement tasks. When the problem was presented vertically (objects arranged in piles), participants solved functional canonical versions of the problem significantly quicker than functional non-canonical versions both between (Experiments 1a and 2), and within subjects (Experiment 3). When the arrangement problem was presented horizontally (objects arranged flat in two rows), no significant differences in solution times were found between conditions (Experiments 1b and 2). Overall the results provide evidence for the importance of object-specific functional relations as a predictor of the solution time of spatial arrangement problems, although some differences were noted between single and multiple presentation of problems when specific rules within problems were rotated. The importance of functional information in memory as a constraint on the building of mental models and problem spaces is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-100
Number of pages30
JournalEuropean Journal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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