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Shannon Fitzhugh, Thomas F. Shipley, Nora Newcombe, Kathleen McKenna, Dominique Dumay; Mental rotation of real word Shepard-Metzler figures: An eye tracking study. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):648. doi: 10.1167/8.6.648.
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The current study used eye movements to study processing of 3 dimensional figures from the Mental Rotation Test (MRT,Vandenberg & Kuse, 1988). It was hypothesized that participants of low spatial ability, compared to high ability individuals, would show as rotation increased, greater increases in reaction time (Shepard & Metzler, 1972;Just & Carpenter, 1976), number of fixations (Carpenter & Just, 1985) and the number of times they switch eye gaze from one figure to another. Exploratory interest area analysis sought to determine if there were differences in features attended for low versus high ability subjects.
Subjects were identified as high (N=4) or low (N=6) spatial ability by scores on the MRT. Eye movements were recorded as ten match pairs and ten mismatch pairs of Shepard-Metzler figures were randomly presented to the participants on a platform with one figure rotated on one axis either 0, 45, 90 degrees or rotated 45 or 90 degrees about two axes. Participants viewed each pair for 10 seconds and were asked to inspect, rotate and respond by fixating the answer box at the base of the platform.
Based on a priori hypotheses, data were analyzed using contrast analysis. Number of fixations yielded a significant difference between low and high ability individuals at 90 degree rotation (t(8)=2.34, p=.05), with low ability subjects making more fixations than high ability. Number of fixations switches between figures yielded a marginally significant difference at 90 degree rotation (t(7.96) = 2.15, p = .06). Exploratory interest area analysis indicated that high ability subjects are more likely to focus on the spatially salient features of the object, specifically corners. We are currently adding more participants to augment the power of other analyses.
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