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Reorientation tasks, in which disoriented participants attempt to relocate objects using different visual cues, have previously been understood to depend on representing aspects of the global organisation of the space, for example its major axis for judgements based on geometry. Careful analysis of the visual information available for these tasks shows that successful performance could be based on the much simpler process of storing a visual 'snapshot' at the target location, and subsequently moving in order to match it. We tested 4-8-year olds on a new spatial reorientation task that could not be solved based on information directly contained in any retinal projection that they had been exposed to, but required participants to infer how the space is structured. Only 6-8-year olds showed flexible recall from novel viewpoints. Five-year olds were able to recall locations given movement information or a unique proximal landmark, but without these they could not do so, even when they were not disoriented or when the landmark was a familiar object. These results indicate that early developing spatial abilities based on view matching and self motion are supplemented by a later-developing process that takes into account the structure of spatial layouts and so enables flexible recall from arbitrary viewpoints.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





241 - 248


Child, Child, Preschool, Cues, Female, Humans, Male, Mental Recall, Orientation, Photic Stimulation, Psychomotor Performance, Space Perception