Differences in spatial memory recognition due to cognitive style

Laura Tascón, Maddalena Boccia, Laura Piccardi, José M. Cimadevilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Field independence refers to the ability to perceive details from the surrounding context as a whole and to represent the environment by relying on an internal reference frame. Conversely, field dependence individuals tend to focus their attention on single environmental features analysing them individually. This cognitive style affects several visuo-spatial abilities including spatial memory. This study assesses both the effect of field independence and field dependence on performance displayed on virtual environments of different complexity. Forty young healthy individuals took part in this study. Participants performed the Embedded Figures Test for field independence or dependence assessment and a new spatial memory recognition test. The spatial memory recognition test demanded to memorize a green box location in a virtual room picture. Thereafter, during ten trials participants had to decide if a green box was located in the same position as in the sample picture. Five of the pictures were correct. The information available in the virtual room was manipulated. Hence, two different experimental conditions were tested: a virtual room containing all landmarks and a virtual room with only two cues. Accuracy and reaction time were registered. Analyses demonstrated that higher field independent individuals were related to better spatial memory performance in two landmarks condition and were faster in all landmark condition. In addition, men and women did not differ in their performance. These results suggested that cognitive style affects spatial memory performance and this phenomenon is modulated by environment complexity. This does not affect accuracy but time spent. Moreover, field dependent individuals are unable to organize the navigational field by relying on internal reference frames when few landmarks are available, and this causes them to commit more errors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number550
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - Aug 23 2017


  • Embedded figures test
  • Environmental complexity
  • Field dependence/independence
  • Spatial memory
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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