Interactive mental map of Northwestern's Campus
- Spatial judgments are affected both by fine-grained and categorical knowledge. We investigated whether, and how, the two forms of knowledge are learned in real-world, navigable space as well as the time course of learning each type of knowledge. Participants were Northwestern University undergraduates who estimated the locations of buildings and other landmarks on campus. The Northwestern campus is roughly divided into three regions whose borders are not easy to discern either from a map or by navigation. Nevertheless, students often refer to these regions linguistically and use them when making housing decisions, choosing classes, etc. We found that knowledge of both the fine-grained configuration of locations and the regional distinctions increased with time. However, regional influences on judgments occurred later in students’ time on campus. Consequently, computed distances across the nonexistent border between north and south campus locations became more biased with time. The results have implications for understanding how spatial representations develop in navigable environments.
- This chapter is a selective review of spatial development, stressing several points. First, we suggest that spatial development can be usefully considered to have two strands: (a) the development of intra-object (or intrinsic) representations along with the ability to transform them (e.g., in mental rotation), and (b) the development of inter-object (or extrinsic) representations and the ability to use them to navigate. Second, we argue that both lines of development begin from strong starting points, but also undergo considerable development. They are far from innately specified, nor do they have a modular architecture. Third, we discuss the amplification of spatial skills by human symbolic capabilities, including language, use of maps and models, and gesture. Fourth, we identify areas where research is lacking, most notably the formal description of intra-object skills and the charting of their normative development, the exploration of the sources of individual differences in navigation-relevant skills, and the applications of research to education.
The Malleability of spatial skills: A meta-analysis of training studies
- Having good spatial skills strongly predicts achievement and attainment in STEM fields (e.g., Shea, Lubinski, & Benbow, 2001; Wai, Lubinski, & Benbow, 2009). Improving spatial skills is therefore of both theoretical and practical importance. To determine whether and to what extent training can improve these skills, we meta-analyzed 217 research studies, investigating the magnitude, moderators, durability and generalizability of training on spatial skills. After eliminating outliers, the average effect size (Hedges’ g) for training relative to control was .47 (SE = .04). Effect sizes were affected substantially by the presence and type of control groups. When treatment and control group improvements were considered separately, the mean effect size for trained groups was.62 (SE = .04), significantly larger than the effect size for control groups, .45 (SE = .04). Training effects were stable and were not affected by delays between training and post-testing. Training also led to both near and moderately far transfer. Considered together, the results suggest that spatially enriched education could pay substantial dividends in increasing participation in mathematics, science, and engineering.
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