We form and lose memories of tabletops and landscapes at different rates

We update spatial memories through movements, real or imagined. Updating tabletops is easier than updating landscapes because we expect to continuously update our own body’s position in space. At the same time, our memories of tabletops tend to degrade rapidly when they’re not being used.

Updating the object to object relationships in landscapes takes more effort for us, even though we may encounter an experience repeatedly. (McNamara p.16) I should note, updating these relationships is harder than updating your working memory of where your body is in space. It’s still much easier for us than almost every other kind of memory; our brains are made for it. Once we have these memories of landscapes, they’re very durable and can persist over years or decades without being used.


Burgess, Neil. “Spatial Memory: How Egocentric and Allocentric Combine.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 10, no. 12, Dec. 2006, pp. 551–57.

The primary way you update spatial memories is through your movements, intentions to move, or imagined movements.

Different timescales to form and update maps p. 6

McNamara, Timothy P. “How Are the Locations of Objects in the Environment Represented in Memory.” In, 2003.