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Spatial Memory

  • By: Jonathan W. Kelly & Timothy P. McNamara
  • In: Encyclopedia of Perception
  • Edited by: E. Bruce Goldstein
  • Subject:Sensation & Perception

A student walking to a classroom across campus must be able to stay oriented with respect to known locations within the campus environment. The consequences of becoming lost may only be a minor inconvenience to the student, but the consequences were surely much greater for our ancestors when navigating home from remote food sources. Current theories of navigation posit two types of spatial memories that work together to keep us oriented with respect to known locations. The first component is a long-term spatial memory of the environment through which the navigator is traveling. Long-term spatial memories contain distances and directions between objects, organized with respect to a spatial reference system centered on the environment. These long-term spatial memories play an especially important role in planning ...

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