Spatial scale

We understand space at four scales, which can be nested within each other, or overlap like a Venn diagram. (Bilge p. 159) 1. Figural space: A scale smaller than the body with controllable objects. A tabletop. 2. Vista space: Larger than the body but can be seen from one position. A room. 3. Environmental space: A space that must be seen from multiple positions via locomotion. A town. 4. Gigantic space: A space that can’t be understood by locomotion, it must be abstracted. A nation.

For digital purposes, figural spaces are Tabletops and environmental spaces are Landscapes.

We can update all of these more or less simultaneously, but it’s effortful so we only do it when asked to. If you’re standing in your living room and turn to face your front door, does the location of the grocery store update also? It’s likely you’ll only make that update if you need to for some reason. It’s not hard, it’s just not automatic. (p 160)

We can reason about each scale, but it’s hard to switch between them. When we ask people to make judgements about where things are, including multiple scales makes it more effortful.

See: Different scales need different focuses, Many difficult experiences are difficult because of poor use of scale

Q: Are there still just two reference systems?


Bilge, A. Reyyan, and Holly A. Taylor. “Where Is ‘Here’ in Nested Environments? Location Accessibility from Different Sources.” Spatial Cognition & Computation, vol. 10, no. 2–3, June 2010, pp. 157–83. Taylor and Francis+NEJM,

Wang, Yao, et al. “Mental Representations of Recently Learned Nested Environments.” Psychological Research, vol. 85, no. 8, Nov. 2021, pp. 2922–34. Springer Link, ![[wangMentalRepresentationsRecently2021 1#^0cd0b5]]