Visual mental imagery is a process that draws on different cognitive abilities and is affected by the contents of mental images. Several studies have demonstrated that different brain areas subtend the mental imagery of navigational and non-navigational contents. Here, we set out to determine whether there are distinct representations for navigational and geographical images. Specifically, we used a Spatial Compatibility Task (SCT) to assess the mental representation of a familiar navigational space (the campus), a familiar geographical space (the map of Italy) and familiar objects (the clock). Twenty-one participants judged whether the vertical or the horizontal arrangement of items was correct. We found that distinct representational strategies were preferred to solve different categories on the SCT, namely, the horizontal perspective for the campus and the vertical perspective for the clock and the map of Italy. Furthermore, we found significant effects due to individual differences in the vividness of mental images and in preferences for verbal versus visual strategies, which selectively affect the contents of mental images. Our results suggest that imagining a familiar navigational space is somewhat different from imagining a familiar geographical space.
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- human navigation
- object mental representation
- visuospatial mental imagery