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    Familiarity with an environment produces refined mental representations in adults of all ages, but it is not clear whether these representations tend to have a north-up orientation and whether familiarity facilitates the learning of new spatial information, especially in ageing. Thirty-two young and 32 older adults studied a map of their home town that included familiar and new fictitious landmarks, then performed pointing tasks, some aligned with the cardinal points south-north (SN), and others counter-aligned, north-south (NS). A measure of visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM) and a questionnaire on pleasure in exploring were also administered. The results showed that performance was better when pointing SN than NS (alignment effect), whereas pointing performance for familiar landmarks was similar for SN and NS alignments (no alignment effect). No interaction involving age was found. VSWM emerged as a significant predictor of pointing performance. Spatial mental representations of familiar environments are elaborate and flexible as regards familiar landmarks, in both young and older adults; and a familiar layout does not seem to enhance older adults' spatial memory as regards new landmarks. © 2019 The British Psychological Society.


    Veronica Muffato, Chiara Meneghetti, Silvia Doria, Rossana De Beni. The orientation of young and older adults' mental representations of their home town with familiar and new landmarks. British journal of psychology (London, England : 1953). 2020 Nov;111(4):762-781

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    PMID: 31737912

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