Spatial description, function and context

Elena Andonova, Thora Tenbrink, Kenny Coventry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Lexical choices in descriptions of the spatial world around us are affected not only by geometry, but also by variables such as situational context and the extent to which the spatial relations between the objects referred to are seen as consistent with their typical function. In a study of how people describe complex scenes with multiple objects we examined whether descriptive choices (both locally at the lexical level but also at a more global descriptive scheme level) are guided by knowledge about the spatial arrangement (functional versus non-functional doll's furniture arrangements) and by the contextual schemas evoked in the task instruction (a living room context versus a furniture showroom). Participants' choices varied both in terms of the order in which objects in the array were described (trajectory strategies) and in spatial language depending on the functionality of the array. The context of instruction had a more limited role affecting only one aspect of the spatial language used.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsB. C. Love, K. McRae, V. M. Sloutsky
Place of PublicationWasgington DC, USA
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages2517
ISBN (Print)978-0976831846
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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