The protagonist's first perspective influences the encoding of spatial information in narratives
Avraamides, Marios N.
SourceQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
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Three experiments examined the first-perspective alignment effect that is observed when retrieving spatial information from memory about described environments. Participants read narratives that described the viewpoint of a protagonist in fictitious environments and then pointed to the memorized locations of described objects from imagined perspectives. Results from Experiments 1 and 2 showed that performance was best when participants responded from the protagonist's first perspective even though object locations were described from a different perspective. In Experiment 3, in which participants were physically oriented with the perspective used to describe object locations, performance from that description perspective was better than that from the protagonist's first perspective, which was, in turn, better than performance from other perspectives. These findings suggest that when reading narratives, people default to using a reference frame that is aligned with their own facing direction, although physical movement may facilitate retrieval from other perspectives.