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Motor processes in mental rotation

Wexler, Mark and Kosslyn, Stephen M. and Berthoz, Alain (1997) Motor processes in mental rotation. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Much indirect evidence supports the hypothesis that transformations of mental images are at least in part guided by motor processes, even in the case of images of abstract objects rather than of body parts. For example, rotation may be guided by processes that also prime one to see results of a specific motor action. We directly test the hypothesis by means of a dual-task paradigm in which subjects perform the Cooper-Shepard mental rotation task while executing an unseen motor rotation in a given direction and at a previously learned speed. Four results support the inference that mental rotation relies on motor processes. First, motor rotation that is compatible with mental rotation results in faster times and fewer errors in the imagery task than when the two rotations are incompatible. Second, the angle through which subjects rotate their mental images, and the angle through which they rotate a joystick handle are correlated, but only if the directions of the two rotations are compatible. Third, motor rotation modifies the classical inverted V-shaped mental rotation response time function, favoring the direction of the motor rotation; indeed, in some cases motor rotation even shifts the location of the minimum of this curve in the direction of the motor rotation. Fourth, the preceding effect is sensitive not only to the direction of the motor rotation, but also to the motor speed. A change in the speed of motor rotation can correspondingly slow down or speed up the mental rotation.

Item Type:Preprint
Keywords:mental rotation, mental imagery, motor action, motor planning, anticipation
Subjects:Neuroscience > Behavioral Neuroscience
Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Psychology > Perceptual Cognitive Psychology
Psychology > Psychophysics
ID Code:655
Deposited By:Wexler, Mark
Deposited On:05 May 1998
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

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