Effects of Task and Object Configuration on Perspective Choice in Spatial Descriptions

Scott D. Mainwaring, Barbara Tversky and Diane J. Schiano

In three different tasks, people described the location of one of two identical objects in a simple scene. When their addressees had the harder task, they usually adopted their addressee’s point of view in order to facilitate communication. When the cognitive burden between subject and addressee was more balanced, subjects often used their own perspectives. Subjects often used landmarks or cardinal directions instead of personal perspectives when these were available. Terms like near indicating close proximity were preferred to far and to terms indicating direction. Describing spatial location reflects the interplay of social and cognitive factors.

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