Spatial memory during progressive disorientation
Human spatial representations of object locations in a room-sized environment were probed for evidence that the object locations were encoded relative not just to the observer (egocentrically) but also to each other (allocentrically). Participants learned the locations of 4 objects and then were blindfolded and either (a) underwent a succession of 70° and 200° whole-body rotations or (b) were fully disoriented and then underwent a similar sequence of 70° and 200° rotations. After each rotation, participants pointed to the objects without vision. Analyses of the pointing errors suggest that as participants lost orientation, represented object directions generally “drifted” off of their true directions as an ensemble, not in random, unrelated directions. This is interpreted as evidence that object-to-object (allocentric) relationships play a large part in the human spatial updating system. However, there was also some evidence that represented object directions occasionally drifted off of their true directions independently of one another, suggesting a lack of allocentric influence. Implications regarding the interplay of egocentric and allocentric information are considered.