Development of Spatial Ability Tests

In our lab, we design, refine, and validate assessments of visualization abilities. In particular, we design and validate tests in immersive and non-immersive environments.

Our research has demonstrated individual differences in visualization abilities; i.e., dissociation between object and spatial visual abilities (Kozhevnikov, Kosslyn, & Shephard, 2005), and a further distinction between spatial allocentric and spatial egocentric abilities (Kozhevnikov & Hegarty, 2001). Although allocentric and egocentric spatial abilities are correlated, they were also found to have distinguishable characteristics and showed different relationships to real world performance (Kozhevnikov, Motes, Rasch, & Blajenkova, 2006; Kozhevnikov & Hegarty, 2001; Kozhevnikov, Blazhenkova, & Becker, 2010).


Our lab has developed unique tests for assessing egocentric mental transformation ability, the 2D and 3D Perspective-Taking test, which reliably predict spatial navigation performance (i.e., spatial navigation and orientation). This Test is currently used for testing the spatial abilities of navigators, pilots and, also, in Man-Vehicle Laboratory at MIT for predicting astronauts’ spatial orientation skills.

Perspective Taking Test:

Perspective Taking

Furthermore, experimental verification and comparative analysis with 2D non-immersive and immersive 3D Perspective-TakingAbility tests provided experimental evidence that the new 3-D PTA test is the best and unique instrument to measure spatial orientation and spatial navigation abilities.

In addition, we developed 3D immersive tests of allocentric visualization ability (Mental Rotation)
Mental Rotation

Spatial Navigation and Individual Differences in Environmental Representations

This project involves studies of navigational abilities in virtual (driving simulator) and in real large-scale environments. We examined whether procedural- and survey-type representations of an environment would be present after traversing a novel route. We also examined whether individual differences in visual-spatial abilities predicted the types of representations formed. Our results challenge experience-based, sequential models of adults’ development of environmental representations. Furthermore, more spatially integrated sketch-maps were associated with higher spatial abilities. Our findings suggest that spatial abilities, not experience alone, affect the types of representations formed (Blajenkova, Motes, & Kozhevnikov, 2005; Motes, Blajenkova, & Kozhevnikov 2004).

Furthermore, with the ultimate goal to better assess, train and improve individuals navigational abilities, we developed and validated an assessment of large-scale egocentric abilities: the Perspective Taking Test
Perspective  Taking Test
. In addition, to improve assessment and training, we examine how people find their way while navigating in space, and what navigational strategies they employ.

Driving simulator

Click to watch video: Driving Simulator, 2-level sity, GMU

Object-Spatial-Verbal Cognitive Style Model

Kozhevnikov, Kosslyn, & Shephard (2005) proposed the new Object-Spatial-Verbal theoretical model of cognitive style that identifies three relatively independent dimensions: Object Imagery, Spatial Imagery, and Verbal. Object-Spatial-Verbal theoretical modelThis model re-examined the traditional Visual-Verbal cognitive style model
Visual-Verbal cognitive style model
, in accordance with current behavioral and neuroscience findings,  demonstrating  the dissociation between the object and spatial processing systems
Dissociation  between object & spatial systems in the brain
. Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov (2009), based on the results of confirmatory factor analysis, demonstrated that the overall fit of the data to the new three-dimensional model of cognitive style was significantly better than that to a traditional model

Based on the new Object-Spatial-Verbal cognitive style theoretical model, Blajenkova, Kozhevnikov, & Motes (2006) first designed and validated a new self-report instrument assessing individual differences in object imagery and spatial imagery (Object-Spatial Imagery and Verbal Questionnaire; OSIQ), and Blazhenkova and Kozhevnikov (2009) developed an extended version of the OSIQ that included verbal scale ( Object-Spatial Imagery and Verbal Questionnaire
; OSIVQ). Furthermore, based on the OSIVQ, Blazhenkova, Becker, and Kozhevnikov (in press) designed a new self-report instrument, the Children’s Object-Spatial Imagery and Verbal Questionnaire (C-OSIVQ), assessing object, spatial and verbal cognitive styles in younger populations (8-17 years old). Across a series of studies, these cognitive style questionnaires demonstrated high internal reliability, predictive, discriminative and ecological validity in both children and adults. Our results have consistently shown that individuals’ preferences to, or self-assessments of, object and spatial imagery are usually highly correlated with corresponding measures of object
Examples of object  imagery tasks
and spatial ability
Examples of Spatial  imagery tasks
, respectively (Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov, 2009; Blajenkova et al, 2006). These findings suggest that self-report measures could be reliably used to identify an individual’s particular strengths and weaknesses in the use of object or spatial modes of information processing.

Overall, our research supports the validity of an Object-Spatial-Verbal cognitive style dimension and related measures when developed on the basis of modern cognitive science theories.

Cognitive Style

Our research on cognitive style includes two main directions:

Our lab is interested in investigating Cognitive Style from theoretical and applied perspectives. In our research, we refine the concept of cognitive style and develop theoretically guided measures of cognitive style.

Cognitive style historically has referred to a psychological dimension representing consistencies in an individual’s manner of cognitive functioning, particularly with respect to acquiring and processing information. The problem of reliably assessing cognitive style has always been a challenge, due to theoretical and methodological difficulties (see Kozhevnikov, 2007, for a review).

In particular, in our research, based on contemporary cognitive neuroscience evidence, we investigate object, spatial, or verbal cognitive styles that describe individuals’ preferences to, or self-assessments of, the use of object, spatial, or verbal, mode of information processing, respectively (Kozhevnikov et al., 2005; Blajenkova et al. 2006; Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov, 2009).

Allocentric vs. Egocentric Spatial Processing

Our research on allocentric-egocentric spatial processing includes three main directions:

This line of research focuses on examining the dissociation between the two types of spatial imagery transformations: allocentric spatial transformations, which involve an object-to-object representational system and encode information about the location of one object or its parts with respect to other objects, versus egocentric perspective transformations that involve a self-to-object representational system.

Spatial Coding Systems

In our lab, we examine individual differences in egocentric (imagining taking a different perspective in space) and allocentric (mentally manipulating objects from a stationary point of view ) spatial abilities, and develop assessments of these abilities .Our research also seeks to discover the relation of these two types of spatial ability to locomotion and spatial navigation.