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Visual Spatial Skills

key cognitive functions

We live in a colorful three-dimensional world. Therefore individuals must analyze shapes and colors of everything they see, be able to identify an object’s position relative to other objects (below, above, on the right, on the left) or estimate the distance between themselves and an object. Analyzing visual information is necessary to be able to act effectively in the everyday environment.

A person's visual system precedes this capability of visual analysis and understanding. Two distinct parts of the brain are engaged in this process:

  • the first one analyzes the shape of objects
  • the second one analyzes their spatial properties (size, location, orientation)

The effective functioning of these two brain parts enables the brain to transform all the information perceived by the eyes into a unique visual scene.

Mental imagery is the ability to mentally represent things, pictures, sounds, smells, sensations, etc. It is very useful when carrying out a complex task, as it enables the brain to imagine a chain of actions, and check that nothing has been left aside or underestimated. This is exactly what happens when someone plays a game of chess for instance, as the brain must imagine the moves of the pieces to determine the best one, before acting on it.

Thanks to mental imagery, an individual can also mentally transform an object and turn it around in their 'minds eye': for instance, someone wants to move a piece of furniture, but before actually moving it, they need to imagine how it is going to look in various positions and locations.