Spatial reasoning with multiple intrinsic frames of reference. Academic Article uri icon


  • Establishing and updating spatial relationships between objects in the environment is vital to maintaining situation awareness and supporting many socio-spatial tasks. In a complex environment, people often need to utilize multiple reference systems that are intrinsic to different objects (intrinsic frame of reference, IFOR), but these IFORs may conflict with each other in one or more ways. Current spatial cognition theories do not adequately address how people handle multi-IFOR reasoning problems. Two experiments manipulated relative orientations of two task-relevant objects with intrinsic axes of orientation as well as their relative task salience. Response times (RTs) decreased with increasing salience of the targeted IFOR. In addition, RTs increased as a consequence of intrinsic orientation conflict, but not by amount of orientation difference. The results suggest that people encounter difficulties when they have to process two conflicting IFOR representations, and that they seem to prioritize processing of each IFOR by salience.

published proceedings

  • Exp Psychol

author list (cited authors)

  • Tamborello, F. P., Sun, Y., & Wang, H.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Tamborello, Franklin P||Sun, Yanlong||Wang, Hongbin

publication date

  • July 2012