Memory for Navigable Space is Flexible and Not Restricted to Exclusive Local or Global Memory Units

Marianne Strickrodt, Heinrich Bulthoff, Tobias Meilinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objects learned within single enclosed spaces (e.g., rooms) can be represented within a single reference frame. Contrarily, the representation of navigable spaces (multiple interconnected enclosed spaces) is less well understood. In this study we examined different levels of integration within memory (local, regional, global), when learning object locations in navigable space. Participants consecutively learned two distinctive regions of a virtual environment that eventually converged at a common transition point and subsequently solved a pointing task. In Experiment 1 pointing latency increased with increasing corridor distance to the target and additionally when pointing into the other region. Further, when pointing within a region alignment with local and regional reference frames, when pointing across regional boundaries alignment with a global reference frame was found to accelerate pointing. Thus, participants memorized local corridors, clustered corridors into regions, and integrated globally across the entire environment. Introducing the transition point at the beginning of learning each region in Experiment 2 caused previous region effects to vanish. Our findings emphasize the importance of locally confined spaces for structuring spatial memory and suggest that the opportunity to integrate novel into existing spatial information early during learning may influence unit formation on the regional level. Further, global representations seem to be consulted only when accessing spatial information beyond regional borders. Our results are inconsistent with conceptions of spatial memory for large scale environments based either exclusively on local reference frames or upon a single reference frame encompassing the whole environment, but rather support hierarchical representation of space.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018 Sept 3


  • Hierarchical models of spatial memory
  • Levels of spatial integration
  • Reference frames
  • Spatial memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Memory for Navigable Space is Flexible and Not Restricted to Exclusive Local or Global Memory Units'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this