SILC Showcase

Showcase June 2014: An up-date on three of the Lab-based exchange projects supported through our Thematic Network in Spatial Cognition (TNSC) via an NSF SAVI award supplement

Share this article using our url:

An up-date on three of the Lab-based exchange projects supported through our Thematic Network in Spatial Cognition (TNSC) via an NSF SAVI award supplement

The following is an up-date on three of the Lab-based exchange projects that were funded by our SAVI Supplement. See the following Showcase for a list and description of all the Lab-based exchange projects that were funded through our SAVI supplement: Showcase April 2013: Lab-based exchange projects supported through our Thematic Network in Spatial Cognition (TNSC) via an NSF SAVI award supplement.

This up-date includes:

  1. Egocentric vs. Allocentric Spatial Neglect
  2. Ambiguous Routes and Origami Paper Folding
  3. Urban Dynamics and Geodesign: On narrative cognition for dynamic GIS

Egocentric vs. Allocentric Spatial Neglect

Awardee/Collaborator: Peii Chen, Kessler Foundation, West Orange, New Jersey

Host/Collaborator: Hans-Otto Karnath, University of Tuebingen, Germany

Tuebingen, Germany

In October 2013, funded by the SAVI grant, Peii Chen from the Kessler Foundation visited the laboratory directed by Hans-Otto Karnath at University of Tuebingen. Chen worked with Karnath and his trainees to develop a project examining whether specific spatial sectors (within vs. beyond arm’s reach) affect the manifestation of egocentric or allocentric spatial neglect in acute stroke patients. Within one month, they set up the experiment and tested it on three pilot subjects.

Figure 1

In addition, Chen participated in the daily lunch gatherings and monthly lab meetings. She was impressed by how Karnath maintained informal but professional relationships with his trainees. She was also very grateful that every time when she was present, the conversation had to switch from German to English. Chen learned much about the integrity of research methods as well as about laboratory management from Karnath.

Currently, Karnath’s graduate student, Dongyun Lee is running the experiment in Germany. Chen will start the experiment in the US, depending on the availability of clinical collaboration.

Ambiguous Routes and Origami Paper Folding

Awardee/Collaborator: Thora Tenbrink, Bangor University, Wales, UK

Host/Collaborator: Holly A. Taylor, Tufts University, Medford (MA)

Funded by the SAVI grant, Thora Tenbrink visited Holly Taylor at Tufts University for three weeks in the summer of 2013 to pursue a range of collaborative projects that were jointly developed over the past years and mainly kept alive through regular Skype meetings. The SAVI based travel provided an excellent opportunity to benefit from focused discussions facilitated by face-to-face contact.

Figure 1

A previous showcase (April 2013) already described one of these projects, pursued jointly with Stephanie Gagnon, Stanford University, and Tad Brunyé, Tufts University and US Army NSRDEC. This work explores how participants respond to route directions containing ambiguities between landmarks and turn directions, forcing reliance on one or the other. This project was carried further to include a new condition not addressed before, with a striking outcome: What matters is who gives the route directions. In the study, participants were informed that the directions came from either a human or a GPS based system, or no information was given. Results showed differential reliance on landmarks versus turn directions as a function of direction source. Without information regarding the source of directions, participants generally relied on landmarks or turn information under conditions of ambiguity, and tendencies were partially predicted by gender, but not individual differences in spatial strategy preference. In contrast, with a GPS source participants relied primarily on turn information, and with a human source on landmark information, and these tendencies were robust across participants and not predicted by gender or individual differences.

Another major project pursued by Holly Taylor and Thora Tenbrink addresses cognitive processes in Origami paper folding – the Japanese art of transforming a sheet of paper into a sculpture through folding techniques without using cuts or glue. Figure 2 Origami paper folding represents a challenging spatial problem-solving task that involves complex cognitive processes that are not well understood so far. To gain insights on the nature of these processes, the collaborators asked students in Bremen (Germany) and at Tufts University (Medford, MA) to think aloud while following instructions (verbal and pictorial) to fold an Origami flower. The analysis reveals recurring patterns in participants' verbalizations, namely reading and reformulating the task description, considering actions and task status, comparing task status to pictures in the instruction, evaluating the progress so far, referring to previous experience, pronouncing problems, and adding ideas about the current instructional step. The last two categories in particular highlight how participants conceptualize this spatial task. Procedurally, the verbalizations reflect a typical order of steps: reading – reformulating – reconceptualizing – evaluating. During Thora's visit at Tufts, discussions concerned parallels to known conceptual challenges involved in interpreting spatial descriptions, and reflections on the benefit of reconceptualization for cognitive processes.

First results have been published in Taylor & Tenbrink (2013), and other publications are on their way. Future plans were made towards further steps to explore conceptual processes in Origami paper folding. This includes a more general account of how people solve this conceptually challenging task, and also how proficiency/ spatial ability may affect performance and verbal description. Since the data show multiple cases of problems and dead ends during participants' thought processes, this will enable an account of problem handling, outlining the cognitive path of dealing with confusion based on a combination of qualitative observations and quantitative tendencies. In addition, there may be interesting repercussions for the Origami community: It may be possible to integrate some of the ideas verbalized by participants in the visualizations of paper folding steps.


  • ♦ Taylor, H. A. & Tenbrink, T. (2013). The spatial thinking of Origami: Evidence from think-aloud protocols. Cognitive Processing, 14, 189–191.

Urban Dynamics and Geodesign: On narrative cognition for dynamic GIS

Awardee/Collaborator: Mehul Bhatt, Spatial Cognition and Research Center (SFB/TR 8), University of Bremen, Germany

Host/Collaborator: Helen Couclelis, University of California, Santa Barbara

Aim of TNSC-SILC Lab Visit

This lab visit was conceived with the aim of initiating a broad-based dialogue on developing a framework for modelling and reasoning about design intentions in the context of urban planning, people-centred design of urban environments, and geospatial urban dynamics at arbitrary time-scales, e.g., encompassing generational change, and extending all the way to the scale of everyday ‘life in the city’.

urban sprawl

The scientific agenda underlying this line of inquiry is to:
develop a scientific manifesto underscoring the essential “why” and “what for” questions seeking to inspire artificial intelligence based engineering, development, and implementation of computational models and assistive technologies for urban design and analysis for governmental policy formation and decision-making.

This will set the stage for small-scale research and development activities, e.g., especially serving as a basis for the development of technologically oriented work in urban planning, geodesign, and geospatial dynamics.

To read further about this Lab Visit, please open Open .pdf document which includes:

  • ♦ and REFERENCES.
You are here: SILC Home Page SILC Showcase Showcase June 2014: An up-date on three of the Lab-based exchange projects supported through our Thematic Network in Spatial Cognition (TNSC) via an NSF SAVI award supplement