Marianne Strickrodt

Address: Spemannstr. 38
72076 Tübingen
Room number: 009.2
Phone: +49 7071 601 615
Fax: +49 7071 601 616
E-Mail: marianne.strickrodt


Picture of Strickrodt, Marianne

Marianne Strickrodt

Position: PhD Student  Unit: Bülthoff

Representation of environmental space


Marianne Strickrodt, Heinrich H. Bülthoff, Tobias Meilinger




During our everyday life we constantly need to move through our environment, e.g., to get to work, to visit our friends, or to find the coffee in the kitchen drawer. In order to do so without being constantly lost along the way we need to access a mental representation of our spatial surrounding. When navigating new environments a multitude of views, travelled trajectories (rotation and translation) as well as configurations between objects, which are all tied to the structure of the environment, have to be integrated to build such mental representations. Theories postulating a hierarchical representation of our environment [McNamara, 1986; Mallot & Basten, 2009], assume that subsets of input units are grouped together and subsumed under a unit on a higher level of hierarchy. Hence, a single view upon the environment, a single room or hallway that can be acquired from a single vantage point when looking around (i.e., vista space), as well as multiple interconnected vista spaces constituting a floor, building, or an area that need to be explored by walking in order to experience them (i.e., environmental space) might function as spatial units on discrete hierarchical levels. However, the nature of spatial units as well as the circumstances under which grouping into higher order units occur is still unexplored.



We aim to identify spatial units and the levels of hierarchy within a spatial representation. Furthermore, we will investigate circumstances under which spatial information is grouped to build a higher order unit.


The layout of ES condition from a birds eye perspective and participants view from within the environment.


Figure 1. Left: The layout of ES condition from a birds‑eye perspective and participants view from within the environment. Right: Layout and participants view from the starting point X within the VS environment. Grey arrows above the Xs indicate the initial view upon the environment.


In our tracking lab participants explore virtual environments containing objects. This setup allows them toactively walk through the virtual world presented via a portable head mounted display. Subsequently, we test their spatial memory by a range of tasks, such as pointing to distant targets from memory, reproducing the previously learned spatial arrangements, or the recognition of locations.


Initial Results

In a first study, we manipulated the surrounding environment while keeping the object layout constant. Participants therefore either learned the exact same object layout presented in a single room (vista space, VS) or presented as spread across multiple parallel corridors (environmental space, ES). We found that the emerging configurational memory differs fundamentally in respect to several aspects: (1) the orientation of the reference frame (mental coordinate system) aligned with the visible context of the room in the VS condition and the visible context of the corridors in the ES condition; (2) in ES condition time needed to point to targets increased the more corridors resided between the current position and the target location, while in VS no such distance effect was present; (3) the sequence target objects were encountered during learning in ES was still preserved in memory as participants reproduced the object layout accordingly.


Initial Conclusion

The representation of a vista space differs from the representation of an environmental space, consisting of several vista spaces. In environmental spaces, such as the corridor environment used in the first study, views and trajectory are predefined by the geometry of the environment. The fact that vista space units are successively entered seems to exert an effect on the later accessibility of spatial memory. Our results suggest that a vista space might be a reasonable spatial unit, situated below the hierarchy level of an environmental space.



In further experiments starting from the vista space level of hierarchy we will further investigate both higher and lower order levels of hierarchy. Specifically, we aim to examine how multiple vista space units can be grouped together to form a region (a representation of a delimited environmental space), which is in turn distinct from another region, and whether and how multiple views perceived within a single vista space are grouped together to form a representation of that vista space.




Mallot, H. A., & Basten, K. (2009). Embodied spatial cognition: Biological and artificial systems. Image and Vision Computing, 27(11), 1658-1670.

McNamara, T. P. (1986). Mental representations of spatial relations. Cognitive psychology, 18(1), 87-121.

Marianne Strickrodt



2015 – present

PhD Student at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics; Social and Spatial Cognition Group

2011 – 2014

Master of Science in Psychology at Justus Liebig University, Giessen

2008 – 2011
Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Justus Liebig University, Giessen


Professional Experience
10/2015 – 12/2015

Intern at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics; Social and Spatial Cognition Group

Project: Vista and environmental spaces

10/2013 – 02/2014

Intern at the Wayfinding Research Lab, Bournemouth University, UK

Project: Uniqueness of landmarks

2011 – 2014

Graduate of PreProPsych (pre-PhD program) at the department of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science, Justus Liebig University, Giessen

Project: Wayfinding and landmark saliencies

09/2010 – 10/2010

Intern at the Donders Institute for Brain and Cognition, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands

Project: Joint action

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Articles (2):

Meilinger T, Strickrodt M and Bülthoff HH (October-2016) Qualitative differences in memory for vista and environmental spaces are caused by opaque borders, not movement or successive presentation Cognition 155 77–95.
Strickrodt M, O'Malley M and Wiener JM (December-2015) This Place Looks Familiar: How Navigators Distinguish Places with Ambiguous Landmark Objects When Learning Novel Routes Frontiers in Psychology 6(1936) 1-12.

Conference papers (4):

Strickrodt M and Meilinger T (November-9-2015) Movement, successive presentation and environmental structure and their influence on spatial memory in vista and environmental space, Conference on Human Mobility, Cognition and GISc, University of Copenhagen: Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Copenhagen, Denmark, 33-34.
Hinterecker T, Röser F, Strickrodt M and Hamburger K (July-2014) SQUARELAND 2.0: A flexible and realistic virtual environment for investigating cognitive processes in human wayfinding, 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2014), Cognitive Science Society, Austin, TX, USA, 2363-2368.
Hinterecker T, Strickrodt M, Röser F and Hamburger K (July-2014) The influence of structural salience and verbalisation on finding the return path, 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2014), Cognitive Science Society, Austin, TX, USA, 613-618.
Hamburger K, Dienelt LE, Strickrodt M and Röser F (August-2013) Spatial cognition: the return path In: Cooperative Minds: Social Interaction and Group Dynamics, , 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2013), Cognitive Science Society, Austin, TX, USA, 537-542.

Posters (2):

Strickrodt M, Bülthoff HH and Meilinger T (August-2-2016): Beyond the border: Separation of space influences memory structure of an object layout, International Conference Spatial Cognition (SC 2016), Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Meilinger T, Strickrodt M, Hinterecker T, Chang D-S, Saulton A, Fademrecht L and de la Rosa S (July-27-2016): Using Virtual Reality to Examine Social and Spatial Cognition, Virtual Environments: Current Topics in Psychological Research: VECTOR Workshop, Tübingen, Germany.

Talks (1):

Strickrodt M, Hinterecker T, Röser F and Hamburger K (September-2014) Abstract Talk: What if you could build your own landmark? The influence of color, shape, and position on landmark salience, 12th Biannual Conference of the German Cognitive Science Society (KogWis 2014), Tübingen, Germany, Cognitive Processing, 15(Supplement 1) S142-S144.

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Last updated: Tuesday, 18.11.2014