Different representations and strategies in mental rotation

Binglei Zhao, Sergio Della Sala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is still debated whether holistic or piecemeal transformation is applied to carry out mental rotation (MR), as an aspect of visual imagery. It has been recently argued that various mental representations could be flexibly generated in order to perform MR tasks. To test the hypothesis that imagery ability and the types of stimuli interact to affect the format of representation and the choice of strategy in performing MR task, participants, grouped as good or poor imagers, were assessed using four MR tasks, comprising two sets of ‘Standard’ cube figures and two sets of ‘non-Standard’ ones, designed by withdrawing cubes from the Standard ones. Both good and poor imagers performed similarly under the two Standard conditions. Under non-Standard conditions, good imagers performed much faster in non-Standard objects than Standard ones, whereas poor imagers performed much slower in non-Standard objects than Standard ones. These results suggested that 1) individuals did not differ in processing the integrated Standard object; whereas 2) in processing the non-Standard objects, various visual representations and strategies could be applied in MR by diverse individuals: good imagers were more flexible in generating different visual representations; whereas poor imagers applied different strategies under different task demands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1574-1583
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number7
Early online date1 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • visual imagery
  • mental rotation
  • individual difference
  • visual representation
  • strategy


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