Micro- and Macroreference Frames: Specifying the Relations Between Spatial Categories in Memory

Nathan Greenauer, David Waller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


A substantial amount of research has demonstrated the importance of reference frames in organizing memory of object locations in both small and large environments. However, to date, little research has examined how the object locations represented in one reference frame are specified relative to object locations represented in another. In a series of 4 experiments, we demonstrate that multiple microreference frames can be established in memory for sets of objects that are spatially and semantically distinct, and that the spatial relations between these microreference frames are specified in memory by means of a more global, macroreference frame. Additionally, these experiments demonstrate that an established macroreference frame can influence which of several microreference frames will be coded in memory, but that a previously established microreference frame had no appreciable influence on the subsequent formation of a macroreference frame. These results are interpreted as indicating that the same cognitive mechanisms underlie interobject coding across multiple environmental scales. The implications for reference frame theories and theories positing hierarchical memory organization are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)938-957
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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