Processing spatial relations: the role of instructions on the priming of egocentric and allocentric spatial representations
Humans process their visual environment using two distinct frames of reference. An egocentric frame of reference is defined in terms of the spatial relation between the observer and an object. This is contrasted to an allocentric frame of reference, which is defined in terms of the spatial relations between different objects and is independent of the observer. Maljkovic & Nakayama (1996) and Ball et al. (2009; 2010) present contrasting views on the significance of each form of processing during visual search tasks. The current study seeks to better understand this incongruity in terms of the task instructions. A visual search task was used to demonstrate priming under four conditions (egocentric, allocentric, combined, control) using two different instructions (absolute and relative). Across both instruction conditions, individuals responded faster to the combined priming condition. In the absolute instruction condition, individuals demonstrated larger facilitation effects in the egocentric priming condition than the allocentric priming condition, while individuals demonstrated larger facilitation effects in the allocentric condition when in the relative instruction condition. These results were discussed in terms of how individuals allocate attentional resources when processing spatial relations.