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Psychon Bull Rev. 2010 Feb;17(1):29-35. doi: 10.3758/PBR.17.1.29.

Trade-off in object versus spatial visualization abilities: restriction in the development of visual-processing resources.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia 22030, USA.


Previous research indicates relative independence between the ventral and dorsal visual pathways, associated with object and spatial visual processing, respectively. The present research shows that, at the individual-differences level, there is a trade-off, rather than independence, between object and spatial visualization abilities. Across five different age groups with different professional specializations, participants with above-average object visualization abilities (artists) had below-average spatial visualization abilities, and the inverse was true for those with above-average spatial visualization abilities (scientists). No groups showed both above-average object and above-average spatial visualization abilities. Furthermore, while total object and spatial visualization resources increase with age and experience, the trade-off relationship between object and spatial visualization abilities does not. These results suggest that the trade-off originates through a bottleneck that restricts the development of overall visualization resources, rather than through preferential experience in one type of visualization.

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