Processes and Representations Supporting Visuospatial Perspective Taking

Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2013

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Spatial perspective taking is the ability to reason about spatial relations relative to a viewpoint different than one's own. Transformation-based theories describe perspective taking as the imagined transformation of one's egocentric representation into alignment with another person's perspective. Perspective transformations of greater extent typically require more time to imagine. Representation-based theories describe perspective taking in terms of shared egocentric representations for reasoning about one's own body and another person's body. One such account, spatial framework theory, posits that the head-feet, front-back, and left-right axes of the body differ in their symmetry, functional significance, and their consistency with respect to the environment. These characteristics result in distinct behavioral patterns when reasoning about different locations relative to the body. The present work examined the relationship between transformation-based and representation-based accounts of spatial perspective taking. Using a mental chronometric approach, we asked participants to adopt the perspective of another person and to make judgments about the locations of objects relative to the person's body by moving a response device in 3-D space. We examined different components of the response corresponding to the predictions made by transformation-based and representation-based theories, and found that participants use a consistent set of transformations and representations for reasoning about the other person's body. By measuring individual differences, we observed a fluid, task-dependent relationship between transformation-based and representation-based characterizations of spatial perspective taking. These results suggest that spatial perspective taking involves a common computational mechanism, though the relationships between its subcomponents can vary with the demands of the task.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Jeffrey M Zacks

Committee Members

Richard A Abrams, Pascal Boyer, Janet M Duchek, Mark Rollins, Lawrence H Snyder


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K76Q1V6R

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