Thomas Hinterecker

Alumni of the Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action
Alumni of the Group Motion Perception and Simulation
Alumni of the Group Social and Spatial Cognition

Main Focus

I'm a PhD student of the "" group.

My research interests are focused on spatial memory for 3D space. My goal is to investigate whether human memory of horizontal and of vertical spatial information is encoded with equal quality. I'm also interested in the question of reference frames in memory of space with vertical information. I use virtual reality (e.g. Oculus Rift) and motion simulator (e.g., Cable Robot simulator) setups for this purpose.

I have a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Psychology, both from the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. I'm a PhD student at the MPI since October 2015.

Memory quality of 3D space


Previous studies on memory for spatial information focused on the horizontal dimension. However, we live and move in a three-dimensional (3D) world. Frequently, we travel on undulating terrain, navigate within multilevel buildings, and fly or dive in volumetric space. Yet, it is not well understood whether and how the human brain creates accurate representation of 3D space.


My goal is to investigate human spatial memory of horizontal and vertical spatial information. I want to elucidate experimentally whether such memory is isotropic (equal memory for horizontal and vertical space) or anisotropic (focus on the horizontal dimension, for instance).


I use(d) virtual reality (e.g., Oculus Rift) and motion simulator (e.g., ) setups to test for (an)isotropy in 3D memory. In these, people have to learn spatial information along horizontal and vertical axes and have to recall these information from memory later on. Memory accuracy as a function of spatial dimension should then give insights in the quality of memory.

Initial results

We showed that memory for horizontal and vertical object locations does not differ when perceived from a single point of view. In contrast, when people have to memorize and recall traveled distances, an anisotropy occurs, with higher memory accuracy along the horizontal axes.

Initial conclusion

Memory for horizontal and vertical spatial information does not differ per se. It might depend on how people have perceived the space (moving vs. viewing) or on how the space is structured (continous vs. regular space). Future studies will address these questions.

Curriculum Vitae


2015 – present

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

2013 – 2015

Master of Science in Psychology at Justus Liebig University, Giessen

2010 – 2013
Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Justus Liebig University, Giessen

Professional Experience
04/2015 - 05/2015

Visiting academic at the Cognition & Perception lab, New York University, USA

Project: Modality, probability, and mental models

2013 – 2015

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

Project: Wayfinding, landmark saliencies and working memory

Go to Editor View