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Viewer-external frames of reference in the mental transformation of 3-D objects

Most models of object recognition and mental rotation are based on the matching of an object's 2-D view with representations of the object stored in memory. They propose that a time-consuming normalization process compensates for any difference in viewpoint between the 2-D percept and the stored representation. Our experiment shows that such normalization is less time consuming when it has to compensate for disorientations around the vertical than around the horizontal axis of rotation. By decoupling the different possible reference frames, we demonstrate that this anisotropy of the normalization process is defined not with respect to the retinal frame of reference, but, rather, according to the gravitational or the visuocontextual frame of reference. Our results suggest that the visual system may call upon both the gravitational vertical and the visuocontext to serve as the frame of reference with respect to which 3-D objects are gauged in internal object transformations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)



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