# Previous chapters now look at figure 71a which shows

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previous chapters. Now look at Figure 7.1A, which shows the results for figures like Pair A from Demonstration 7.1. These figures require only a two-dimensional rotation, similar to rotating a flat picture. In contrast, Figure 7.1B shows the results for figures like Pair B in Demonstration 7.1. These figures require a three-dimensional rotation, similar to rotating an object in depth. As both graphs show, people’s decision time was strongly influenced by the amount of mental rotation required to match a figure with its mate. For example, rotating a figure 160 degrees requires much more time than rotating it a mere 20 degrees. Furthermore, notice the similarity between Figures 7.1A and 7.1B. In other words, the participants in this study performed a three-dimensional rotation almost as quickly as a two-dimensional rotation. (Pairs of figures like the two in Pair C in Demonstration 7.1 are based on different shapes, so these data are not included in either Figure 7.1A or 7.1B.) As you can see, both figures show that the relationship between rotation and reaction time is a straight line. This research supports the analog-code perspective, because you would take much longer to rotate an actual physical object 160 degrees than to rotate it a mere 20 degrees. In contrast, a propositional code would predict similar reaction times for these two conditions; the language-like description for the figure would not vary with the amount of rotation (Howes, 2007). Recent findings involving mental rotation If you are left-handed, you may wonder if handedness can influence the mental- rotation process. Kotaro Takeda and his coauthors (2010) asked the participants in their study to look at pictures of a human hand and to identify whether they were viewing a left hand or a right hand. Right-handers recognized a right hand faster than a left hand. In contrast, left- handers recognized right and left hands equally quickly. However, both groups recognized upright pictures faster—and more accurately—than upside-down pictures. This particular finding is consistent with the earlier research. After all, people take less time to rotate an image 0 degrees, rather than 180 degrees. We also know that elderly people perform
more slowly than younger people on a mental-rotation task. In contrast, age is not consistently correlated with other imagery skills, such as sense of direction or the ability to scan mental images (Beni et al., 2006; Dror & Kosslyn, 1994). Other research shows that deaf individuals who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) are especially skilled in looking at an arrangement of objects in a scene and mentally rotating that scene by 180 degrees (Emmorey et al., 1998). Neuroscience Literature In one of the early neuroscience studies on this topic, Kosslyn, Thompson, and their coauthors (2001) examined whether people use their motor cortex when they imagine themselves rotating one of the geometric figures in Demonstration 7.2. These researchers instructed one group of participants to rotate—with their own hands—one of the geometric