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The first-perspective alignment effect: The role of environmental complexity and familiarity with surroundings

Wilson, Paul; Tlauka, Michael; Carter, Pelham; Mahlberg, Tim; Wilson, Paul N.


Paul Wilson

Michael Tlauka

Pelham Carter

Tim Mahlberg

Paul N. Wilson


People often remember relatively novel environments from the first perspective encountered or the first direction of travel. This initial perspective can determine a preferred orientation that facilitates the efficiency of spatial judgements at multiple recalled locations. The present study examined this "first-perspective alignment effect" (FPA effect). In three experiments, university students explored three-path routes through computer-simulated spaces presented on a desktop computer screen. Spatial memory was then tested employing a "judgement of relative direction" task. Contrary to the predictions of a previous account, Experiment 1 found a reliable FPA effect in barren and complex environments. Experiment 2 strongly implicated the importance of complete novelty of the space surrounding the route in producing the effect. Experiment 3 found that, while familiarity with the surrounding space greatly attenuated the FPA effect with immediate testing, the effect reemerged following a 7-day delay to testing. The implications for the encoding and retrieval of spatial reference frames are discussed.


Tlauka, M., Carter, P., Mahlberg, T., & Wilson, P. N. (2011). The first-perspective alignment effect: The role of environmental complexity and familiarity with surroundings. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64(11), 2236-2250.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 20, 2011
Online Publication Date Aug 1, 2011
Publication Date Aug 1, 2011
Print ISSN 1747-0218
Electronic ISSN 1747-0226
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 64
Issue 11
Pages 2236-2250
Keywords Frame of reference; Egocentric learning; Alignment; Spatial memory
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