Extrinsic cues for reference systems

People orient themselves in landscapes relative to boundaries and landmarks. Experiences with strong boundaries and landmarks set up the expectation that they will be navigable, which causes you to store your memory as a landscape. In a tabletop experience, the environment tends to fade into the background relative to the objects at hand, and your brain won’t bother to make it into a long-term map.


Kelly, Jonathan W., and Timothy P. McNamara. “Spatial Memories of Virtual Environments: How Egocentric Experience, Intrinsic Structure, and Extrinsic Structure Interact.” Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, vol. 15, no. 2, Apr. 2008, pp. 322–27.

Strong frames (like a room shape that aligns or conflict with rows of objects) can help or hinder memory. People literally cannot remember experiences that conflict with their frames. (p. 8)