Social-spatial Interactions

Humas often tap into the processes of social and spatial cognition at the same time, for example, when regulating their spatial distance to each other based on sympathy, or when imagining a spatial perspective based on another person’s viewpoint. This temporal and functional proximity could lead to an partial overlap of spatial and social cognitive processes. We examine the social and spatial character of bodies and body parts, how social cues influence perceived distance and environments, and whether object orientation exhibits a social aspect as well.

Body space

Bodies are physical and social entities. Distinguishing one’s body from the world is probably the most basic form of self-representation. Humans use visual and somatosensory cues for estimating location and shape of their body and body parts. Our results showed that prior methods used to distinguish between visual and somatosensory representations are not specific for body parts as assumed before, but also apply to spatial objects and parallel findings in memory for spatial object arrangements. Another line of research is concerned with the full body illusion in which participants can feel that a virtual body in front of them is actually their body. Our results show that contrary to earlier conceptions this feeling of body identity and the subjective body location go hand in hand and are not separated. In the further course of this project we aim at examining effects of the visual full-body illusion on somatosensory body-part estimation.

Aurelie Saulton, Martin Dobriki, Stephan de la Rosa

B.J. Mohler


  • Saulton, A. & de la Rosa, S. (accepted). Conceptual biases explain distortion differences between hand and objects in localization tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance .
  • Saulton, A., Longo, M. R., Wong, H. Y., Bülthoff, H. H., & de la Rosa, S. (2016). The role of visual similarity and memory in body model distortions. Acta Psychologica, 164, 103–111.
  • Saulton, A., Dodds, T. J., Bülthoff, H. H., & Rosa, S. de la. (2015). Objects exhibit body model like shape distortions. Experimental Brain Research, 1–9.
  • Dobricki, M. & de la Rosa, S. (2013). The structure of conscious bodily self-perception during full-body illusions. PLoS ONE, 8, 1-9.

Collaborative spatial problem solving

Almost all human-made objects involved collaborative spatial problem solving in the process of their construction or production. We aim to examine the underlying cognitive processes targeting at strategies, memory requirements, shared representations, and spatial transformations. First results on the case of collaborative search (e.g., firefighters searching a building for victims) indicate that collaborative in comparison to individual search might result in qualitative better, but not necessarily more efficient performance. We currently examine the interaction of working memory and search strategy and extend the problem to a collaborative 3D puzzle task.

Franziska Keilmann, Stephan de la Rosa, Tobias Meilinger

B.J. Mohler, M. Bues (Fraunhofer IAO), S.Schwan (IWM), U. Cress (IWM)


  • Keilmann, F., de la Rosa, S., Cress, & Meilinger, T. (2017). How do individual and collaborative spatial problem solving differ? The case of environmental search. 59th Conference of Experimental Psychologists.
  • Keilmann, F., de la Rosa, S., Schwan, S., Cress, U., Mohler, B.J., Bülthoff, H.H. & Meilinger, T. (submitted). Comparing Individual and Collaborative Problem Solving in Environmental Search. Cognitive Science Conference.

MPG-FhG project “CoAvatar” (PI: M. Bues, T. Meilinger, B. Mohler)

Social influences on spatial perception

Within this project we examine potential social influences on room and distance perception. Results show cultural differences on the estimation of rooms. Participants also estimate virtual characters and objects facing them as closer than when they face away from them. Most humans and animals perceive and interact with their front. We currently examining whether social processes indicated by perceived animacy, relation to attention and social distances, or non-social object processing are responsible for the observed asymmetries.

Aurelie Saulton, Celia Foster, Stephan de la Rosa, Tobias Meilinger

K. Takahashi, K. Watanabe, T. Dodds, B.J. Mohler, Martin Butz


  • Jung, E., Takahashi, K., Watanabe, K, de la Rosa, S. Butz, M.V., Bülthoff, H.H. & Meilinger, T. (2016). The Influence of Human Body Orientation on Distance Judgments. Frontiers in Psychology
  • Takahashi, K.*, Meilinger, T.*, Watanabe, K., Bülthoff, H.H. (2013). Psychological influences on distance estimation in a virtual reality environment. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 1-7. [* equal contributions]
  • Saulton, A., Dodds, T.J., Tesch, J., Mohler, B.J. & Bülthoff, H.H. (2013). The influence of shape and culture on visual volume perception of virtual rooms. ACM Symposium on Applied Perception.
  • Foster, C., Takahashi, K., Watanabe, K., Bülthoff, H.H. & Meilinger, T. (submitted). Looking at me? Observers underestimate the position of objects facing towards them, independent of these objects being aversive or animate.
Go to Editor View