Common processing constraints for visuomotor and visual mental rotations
Naive human subjects were tested in three different tasks: (1) a visuomotor mental rotation task, in which the subjects were instructed to move a cursor at a given angle from a stimulus direction; (2) a visual mental rotation task, in which the subjects had to decide whether a displayed letter was normal or mirror image regardless of its orientation in the plane of presentation; and (3) a visuomotor memory scanning task, in which a list of two to five stimuli directions were presented sequentially and then one of the stimuli (test stimulus), except the last one, was presented again. Subjects were instructed to move a cursor in the direction of the stimulus that followed the test stimulus in the previous sequence. The processing rate of each subject in each task was estimated using the linear relation between the response time and the angle (mental rotation tasks) or the list length (memory scanning task). We found that the processing rates in the mental rotation tasks were significantly correlated but that neither correlated significantly with the processing rate in the memory scanning task. These results suggest that visuomotor and visual mental rotations share common processing constraints that cannot be ascribed to general mental processing performances.