M. Kozhevnikov’s Lab, Harvard / Important ASD Visual Object, Spatial Imagery Differences

Welcome to Maria Kozhevnikov’s Lab

Maria Kozhevnikov currently holds positions as Visiting Associate Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Department of Radiology and as Associate in Neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital. Maria’s primary academic appointment is as an Associate Professor of Psychology at the National University of Singapore, Department of Psychology and Communication and New Media Programme.

Maria Kozhevnikov’ labs at Harvard and NUS jointly investigate the neural mechanisms of visual/spatial imagery, as well as individual differences in basic information processing capacities (e.g. the ability to generate, inspect, or transform visual/spatial images). In addition, the lab research focuses on examining how these individual differences affect more complex activities, such as spatial navigation, learning and problem solving in mathematics and science, as well as in exploring ways to train visual/spatial imagery skills and design learning technologies that can accommodate individual differences and learning styles.

NOTE: This research may clear up some of the variation within ASD / Asperger’s. I  identify myself as “object dominant” but also “spatial” (geology requires visual manipulation of objects across scale, relative location and time; I could not imagine not using both types of visual processing in the field of geology.) I’m definitely “verbal as a second language”. I assume each person has a mix of processing preferences that come together in unique ways. 

Object-Spatial Dissociation in Individual Differences in Visual Imagery


Based on recent data from cognitive neuroscience and behavioral research about the existence of two anatomically and neurologically distinct visual, object and spatial visual systems in perception, working memory, and imagery, (Ungerleider, & Mishkin, 1982; Kosslyn, Ganis, & Thompson, 2001), we propose a new framework of individual differences in mental imagery. Specifically, we investigate the dissociation between individual differences in object visualization ability (processing visual information about appearances of objects and scenes in terms of their pictorial properties) and spatial visualization ability (processing visual information about spatial relations between objects or their parts, and performing mental spatial transformations and manipulations) and how these different types of imagery are used in different professional domains (e.g., science, visual arts, architecture).

Our research into the object-spatial dissociation follow three directions:

Our central finding is that some individuals use imagery to construct vivid, concrete, and detailed images of individual objects (object visualizers), whereas others use imagery to represent the spatial relationships between objects and perform spatial transformations, such as mental rotation (spatial visualizers). Moreover, our behavioral results showed that there is a trade-off between object and spatial imagery abilities : while object visualizers score poorly on spatial imagery tasks but excel on object imagery tasks, spatial visualizers score high on spatial imagery tasks but poorly on object imagery tasks (Kozhevnikov, Hegarty, & Mayer, 2002; Kozhevnikov, Kosslyn, & Shephard, 2005; Kozhevnikov, Blazhenkova, & Becker, 2010).
Recently, we designed the Object-Spatial-Verbal Questionnaire ( OSIVQ ) as an assessment tool for distinguishing between object visualizers, spatial visualizers, and verbalizers (Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov, 2009) The OSIVQ assesses different visual style preferences effectively and quickly, which makes it highly useful in applied settings (e.g., education, vocational guidance), and for psychological research (e.g., studying object and spatial visual and verbal processing)

Research (These are links to summaries) 

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