Keeping oriented in the surrounding space requires an accurate representation of one's spatial position and facing direction. Although previous studies provided evidence of specific spatial codes for position and direction within room-sized and large-scale navigational environments, little is known about the mechanisms by which these spatial quantities are represented in a real small-scale environment. Here, we used two spatial tasks requiring participants to encode their own position and facing direction on a series of pictures taken from a familiar circular square. Crucially, directions and positions were incidentally manipulated, so that when participants were required to encode their current position in the square, the perceived direction across consecutive trials was the same, and vice versa. We found a behavioral advantage (priming effect: reduced reaction times and increased accuracy) for repeated directions and positions, even in the absence of any explicit demand to encode either of them. The advantage was higher for repeated directions, indicating that representation of one's own direction is more automatic than representation of one's own location. Furthermore, priming effects were partially mediated by gender: females (but not males) showed a stronger priming effect for repeated directions than for repeated positions. Finally, although priming effects were not linearly related to the physical distances between consecutive positions and directions, they revealed a rough preservation of real-world distance relationships.
- Journal Article