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Perspective taking and systematic biases in object location memory

Segen, Vladislava, Wiener, Jan and Slattery, Tim (2020) Perspective taking and systematic biases in object location memory.
The aim of the current study was to develop a novel task that allows for the quick assessment of spatial memory precision with minimal technical and training requirements. In this task, participants memorized the position of an object in a virtual room and then judged from a different perspective, whether the object has moved to the left or to the right. Results revealed that participants exhibited a systematic bias in their responses that we termed the reversed congruency effect. Specifically, they performed worse when the camera and the object moved in the same direction than when they moved in opposite directions. Notably, participants responded correctly in almost 100% of the incongruent trials, regardless of the distance by which the object was displaced. In Experiment 2, we showed that this effect cannot be explained by the movement of the object on the screen, but that it relates to the perspective shift and the movement of the object in the virtual world. We also showed that the presence of additional objects in the environment reduces the reversed congruency effect such that it no longer predicts performance. In Experiment 3, we showed that the reversed congruency effect is greater in older adults, suggesting that the quality of spatial memory and perspective-taking abilities are critical. Overall, our results suggest that this effect is driven by difficulties in the precise encoding of object locations in the environment and in understanding how perspective shifts affect the projected positions of the objects in the two-dimensional image.
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