Judgements of relative direction: The effect of task instructions on spatial recall

Phillip Donaldson, Michael Tlauka, Caitlin Robertson

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    1 Citation (Scopus)


    One of the most widely used tasks in the spatial memory literature is the judgement of relative direction (JRD) test. The present investigation examined the hypothesis that standard JRD task demands bias spatial recall. In two experiments, participants' recall of small-scale layouts as measured by standard JRD tests (in which the relationship between objects was employed to establish imagined orientations within the learned scene) was compared with recall as measured by novel JRD tasks. The novel tasks emphasized either the internal front/back and left/right axes of individual objects (Experiment 1) or extrinsic spatial cues (Experiment 2). Spatial recall was found to reflect the reference cues emphasized by the JRD task in Experiment 1 and by the novel task in Experiment 2. The finding that directional judgements tended to reflect a frame of reference aligned with the set of cues emphasized by task demands suggests that the nature of the task employed to test knowledge can have an effect on spatial recall.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1090-1103
    Number of pages14
    JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


    • Judgements of relative direction
    • Spatial cognition
    • Spatial frames of reference
    • Spatial memory


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