One turn at a time: Behavioral and ERP evidence for two types of rotations in the classical mental rotation task

Maya Ankaoua*, Roy Luria

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We perform mental rotations in many everyday situations, such as reading a map or following furniture assembling instructions. In a classical mental rotation task, participants are asked to judge whether a rotated stimulus is presented in its mirrored form or its canonical form. Previous results have indicated a degree effect: RT is longer as the angle of rotation increases, and this effect is traditionally explained by arguing that this judgment requires rotating the stimulus back to its upright form. Importantly, in half of the trials, the stimuli are rotated on both the page plane and mirror plane. Namely, we argue that in previous research the task actually involved two different rotation processes. To provide a clear dissociation between these two rotations, we collected EEG data and used the Contralateral Delay Activity (CDA) as an indicator of visual working memory (VWM) load. The results of Experiment 1 suggested different VWM involvement according to the degrees rotations when the item was not mirrored, such that the CDA amplitude generally increased as the degree of rotation was higher. Mirrored trials were all at ceiling in terms of CDA, regardless of their rotation degree. Experiment 2 showed increased CDA amplitude uniquely related to the flip rotation. Thus, we provided ERP evidence that the canonical mental rotation task involves two types of rotations that can be dissociated based on the load they imposed on VWM.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14213
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


FundersFunder number
Minducate Science of Learning Research and Innovation Center
Israel Science Foundation862/17


    • ERPs
    • contralateral delayed activity
    • mental rotation
    • visual working memory


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