Dissociating viewpoint costs in mental rotation and object recognition

William G. HAYWARD*, Guomei ZHOU, Isabel GAUTHIER, Irina M. HARRIS

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsReview articleBook reviewpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


In a mental rotation task, participants must determine whether two stimuli match when one undergoes a rotation in 3-D space relative to the other. The key evidence for mental rotation is the finding of a linear increase in response times as objects are rotated farther apart This signature increase in response times is also found in recognition of rotated objects, which has led many theorists to postulate mental rotation as a key transformational procedure in object recognition. We compared mental rotation and object recognition in tasks that used the same stimuli and presentation conditions and found that, whereas mental rotation costs increased relatively linearly with rotation, object recognition costs increased only over small rotations. Taken in conjunction with a recent brain imaging study, this dissociation in behavioral performance suggests that object recognition is based on matching of image features rather than on 3-D mental transformations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)820-825
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This article was supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (project number HKU 4260/03H) to W.G.H.


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