Tobias Meilinger

Alumni of the Department Human Perception, Cognition & Action
Alumni of the Group Perception & Action in Virtual Environments
Alumni of the Group Social & Spatial Cognition

Main Focus

I am interested in the processing of everyday environments. How do humans represent cities, buildings, and rooms containing objects and interaction partners? Which formats (e.g., graph vs. coordinate system) do they generate from experienced views, interactions, movement trajectories, descriptions, and maps? And how do they use them for navigation, interaction, and problem solving? My approach uses behavioural experiments in real and virtual environments supplemented by formal description methods of space, functional neuroimaging, eye tracking, and cognitive modeling.


An overview video of my work in navigation can be found

Stephan de la Rosa and I are leading the

Learning and navigating complex environments

Navigating through buildings and cities is an under-researched yet important everyday task. We found that knowledge acquired from navigation is represented in multiple, local reference frames corresponding, for example, to streets or corridors. This local information also incorporates local geometry as defined by walls. Contrary, (prior) map exposure yields a single, map-up oriented reference frame which is used for configurational or survey tasks within novel and highly familiar environments, but not for selecting routes. The underlying route knowledge focuses on turns which is enabled by a default strategy of walking straight. Route guidance providing unambiguous turning information will yield enhanced wayfinding performance.These findings will foster our understanding of human-environmental interaction and thus help finding ones goal.

Publications:

- Meilinger, T.,* Strickrodt, M.,* & Bülthoff, H.H. (2016). Qualitative differences between environmental and vista space memory are caused by the separation of space, not by movement or successive perception. Cognition, 155, 77–95. [*equal contributions]

- Meilinger, T., * Frankenstein, J., * Simon, N., Bülthoff, H.H., & Bresciani, J.-P. (2016). Not all memories are the same: situational context influences spatial recall within ones city of residency. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 23, 246-252. [*equal contributions]

- Meilinger, T.,  Frankenstein, J, Watanabe, K. , Bülthoff, H.H. & Hölscher, C. (2015). Reference frames in learning from maps and navigation. Psychological Research, 79, 1000-1008.

- Meilinger, T., Riecke, B.E., Bülthoff, H.H. (2014). Local and global reference frames for environmental spaces. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67, 542-569.

- Meilinger, T., Frankenstein, J., Bülthoff, H.H. (2014). When in doubt follow your nose - a wayfinding strategy. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1-7.

- Meilinger, T., Frankenstein, J., Bülthoff, H.H. (2013). Learning to navigate: experience vs. maps. Cognition, 129, 24-30.

- Frankenstein, J., Mohler, B.J., Bülthoff, H.H. & Meilinger, T. (2012). Is the Map in Our Head Oriented North? Psychological Science, 23, 120-125.

- Meilinger, T., Franz, G., & Bülthoff, H. H. (2012). From Isovists via Mental Representations to Behaviour: First Steps Toward Closing the Causal Chain. Environment and Planning B, 39, 48-62.

- Basten, K. Meilinger, T., Mallot, H.A. (2012). Mental travel primes place orientation in spatial recall. In Spatial Cognition VIII, Eds. C. Stachniss, K. Schill, D.H. Uttal (Berlin: Springer), 378-385.

-  Hölscher, C., Büchner, S. J., Meilinger, T., & Strube, G. (2009). Adaptivity of wayfinding strategies in a multi-building ensemble - the effects of spatial structure, task requirements and metric information. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29, 208-219.

- Meilinger, T., Hölscher, C., Büchner, S. J., & Brösamle, M. (2006). How Much Information Do You Need? Schematic Maps in Wayfinding and Self Localisation. In Spatial Cognition V, Eds. T. Barkowsky et al. (Berlin: Springer), 381–400.

Cooperation partners:

, , , , , , ,,

Funding:

- DFG project “Where is my goal? The functional, computational and neural basis of human survey knowledge” (principal investigator: T. Meilinger)

- Max Planck Society

- EU project “



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. We found that despite still present collaboration costs, collaborative searchers outperform individual searchers, if they share a probalem represenation (i.e., see the to-be-searched environment). Currently, we examine the interaction of working memory and search strategy and extend the problem to a collaborative 3D puzzle task.

Publications:

- 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). Searching together helps despite costs for collaboration, but only if you know the environment.

Cooperation partners:

, , , , , ,

Funding:

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



Self movement perception and representation of 3D space

Humans mainly  experience their environment from an upright body posture and locomote along the horizontal plane. This project examines whether vertical movements and locations are perceived and memorized in the same way as horizontal ones. Results suggest that memory is anisotropic for movement, but isotropic for visible locations and that egocentric reference frames are used for both types of information despite salient allocentric alternatives such as gravity.

Publications

- Hinterecker, T., Leroy, C., Kirschhock, M.E., Zhao,M., Butz, M. V., Bülthoff, H. H., & Meilinger, T. (submitted). Spatial Memory for vertical locations.
- Hinterecker, T. *, Leroy, C.*, Zhao, M., Butz, M. V., Bülthoff, H. H., & Meilinger, T. (2017). No advantage for remembering horizontal over vertical spatial locations learned from a single viewpoint. Memory & Cognition . [* equal contributions]
- Barnett-Cowan, M., Meilinger, T., Vidal, M., Teufel, H. & Bülthoff, H.H. (2012). MPI CyberMotion Simulator: Implementation of a novel motion simulator to investigate path integration in three dimensions. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 63, 1-6.

- Hölscher, C., Meilinger, T., Vrachliotis, G., Brösamle, M., & Knauff, M. (2006). Up the down staircase: next term Wayfinding strategies in multi-level buildings. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 26, 284–299.


Collaboration partners:

, , , , ,

Spatial integration

Rooms, buildings and cities cannot be grasped within one glance. In order to get their overall structure, one has to integrate multiple experiences which relate via movement trajectories or common landmarks. We showed that reference frames (i.e., coordinate systems) used for integration depend on the learning time, available movement trajectories, and the knowledge from where to use the information afterwards. Integration of city streets happens within an incremental process conducted from one current location. Consequently, integration processes differ between spatial scales.


Publications:

- Meilinger, T. & Watanabe, K. (2016). Multiple strategies for spatial integration of 2D layouts in working memory. PLOS ONE, 11, 1-22.

- O’Malley, M., Bülthoff, H.H., Meilinger, T. (2014). How to find a shortcut within a city? Mental walk vs. mental model. 56. Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen.

- Meilinger, T.*, Berthoz, A. & Wiener, J.M.* (2011). The integration of spatial information across different perspectives. Memory & Cognition, 39, 1042-1054. [* equal contributions]

- Henson, A., Mallot, H.A., Bülthoff, H.H., Meilinger, T. (2011). When do we integrate spatial information acquired by walking through environmental spaces? 33rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 2764-2769.

- Meilinger, T., Bülthoff, H.H. (2010). The Direction Bias and the Incremental Construction of Survey Knowledge. 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 2500-2505.


Cooperation partners:

, , , , 

Funding:

- DFG project “Where is my goal? The functional, computational and neural basis of human survey knowledge” (principal investigator: T. Meilinger)

- Feodor-Lynen Stipend from the Humboldt Foundation

- Max Planck Society

- EU project “Wayfinding”



Verbal and non-verbal codes in spatial memory

In which format do humans represent their environment? Our results indicate that room locations and routes learned from navigation as well as from maps are not only encoded spatially, but also in a verbal code, e.g. as descriptions. The usefulness of verbal encoding for navigation seems to depend on already established long-term associations between corresponding verbal and spatial elements. Humans combine multiple representations formats.

Publications:

- Meilinger, T., Schulte-Pelkum, J., Frankenstein, J., Hardiess, G. Mallot, H.A., Bülthoff, H.H. (2016). How to best name a place? Facilitation and inhibition of route learning due to descriptive and arbitrary location labels. Frontiers in Psychology,7, 1-7.

-  Meilinger, T. & Bülthoff, H.H. (2013). Verbal shadowing and visual interference in spatial memory. PLOS ONE, 8, 1-9.

- Meilinger, T., Knauff, M., & Bülthoff, H. H. (2008). Working memory in wayfinding - a dual task experiment in a virtual city. Cognitive Science, 32, 755-770.

-

Cooperation partners:

, , ,

Funding:

- DFG project “Mapspace” (SFB/TR8 Spatial Cognition)

- EU project “Wayfinding”

- Max Planck Society


The object orientation effect in perception

Virtual cones, cameras and avatars are perceived as closer than when they are facing an observer than when facing away. This effect does not depend on animation or eye fixations and is observed also between two avatars facing each other. Consequently, explanations by aversiveness, social processes, or preparation for interaction are  unlikely. Maybe a general extrapolation of locations towards the front are a the reason fir it.


Publications:

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,7, 1-9.

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.

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]

Cooperation partners:

, ,

Funding:

- Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

- Feodor-Lynen Stipend from the Humboldt Foundation


Theoretical foundations of spatial cognition

This research is concerned with conceptions of how space can be represented and processed theoretically and in the light of current empirical data. We argue that simple egocentric and allocentric conceptions are not sufficient to capture complex situations and suggest combining them into complex representations. I also proposed a theory for self-localisation, route- and survey navigation in environmental spaces.

Publications:

- Wiener, J.M. & Meilinger, T. (forthcoming). Spatial Biases in Wayfinding and Navigation. In T. Hubbard (Ed.), Spatial Biases in Perception and Cognition. Cambridge University Press.

- Hardiess, G., Meilinger, T., & Mallot, H.A. (2015). Virtual Reality and Spatial Cognition. In J.D. Wright (Ed), International Encyclopedia of Social & Behavioral Sciences (pp. 133-137). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

- Vosgerau, G. Knoll, A., Meilinger, T. & Vogeley, K. (2013). Representation. In A. Stephan & S. Walter (Eds.), Handbuch Kognitionswissenschaft (386-401). Stuttgart: Metzler.

- Meilinger, T. & Vosgerau, G. (2010)  Putting Egocentric and Allocentric into Perspective. In C. Hölscher, C., T. F. Shipley, M. Olivetti Belardinelli, J. A. Bateman, N. S. Newcombe (Eds.), Spatial Cognition VII, LNAI 6222 (pp. 207-211). Berlin: Springer.

-

Cooperation partners:

, ,

Funding:

- Max Planck Society

- DFG project “Where is my goal? The functional, computational and neural basis of human survey knowledge” (principal investigator: T. Meilinger)


Further research

Additional research interests encompass contributions of lateral field of view for reorientation (with and ), spatial priming (with and ), the measurement of spatial competence in neurological patients (together with and ) and body orientation within large scale spaces (with and colleagues). I cooperated with the project at the University of Freiburg (principal investigators: , and ) and examined the influence of passengers on accidental risk (together with and ),, and (together with and ).

Go to Editor View