Tlauka, M., Carter, P.J., Malhberg, T. and Wilson, P N (2011) The first-perspective alignment effect: The role of environmental complexity and familiarity with surroundings. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A, 64 (11). pp. 2236-2250. ISSN 0272-4987

People often remember relatively novel environments from the first perspective encountered or the first direction of travel. This initial perspective can determine a preferred orientation that facilitates the efficiency of spatial judgements at multiple recalled locations. The present study examined this “first-perspective alignment effect” (FPA effect). In three experiments, university students explored three-path routes through computer-simulated spaces presented on a desktop computer screen. Spatial memory was then tested employing a “judgement of relative direction” task. Contrary to the predictions of a previous account, Experiment 1 found a reliable FPA effect in barren and complex environments. Experiment 2 strongly implicated the importance of complete novelty of the space surrounding the route in producing the effect. Experiment 3 found that, while familiarity with the surrounding space greatly attenuated the FPA effect with immediate testing, the effect reemerged following a 7-day delay to testing. The implications for the encoding and retrieval of spatial reference frames are discussed.

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