Tversky et al.’s article on spatial cognition categorizes our understanding of space into three inter-related categories: the outside, navigable world, the space around our bodies, and the space consisting of our bodies. At an individual level, it is axiomatically clear that we do not conceive of ourselves or our surroundings as a 2 dimensional space. It is also interesting to examine how detailed spatial cognition of our body can enable better movement physically.
There are clear examples of the disconnect between our cognition of our body and representing it in a two dimensional form. Ask any person of the difficulty they had in trying to draw the hand of a person holding an object without a visual reference. This extends beyond the technical expertise of being able to draw the fingers in perspective, since it is difficult to simply imagine how the fingers position themselves in relation to each in two dimensions while remaining ‘realistic’ to our minds. It can be inferred that we cognize space of our bodies and our nearby surroundings in three dimensions (and thus rich in detail) because we have so much experience in these local matters. Does this raise an implication then of our 2-D conceptualizations of the ‘far outside world’ as being relatively poor in detail? By extension, do our two-dimensional maps reinforce a poorly performing cognition of space?
On another point, I would argue that athletes have a heightened awareness of the space of their surroundings and of their body. The important functional relevance that the authors identified is likely to be stronger and more varied with athletes, since they have a more frequent and wider range of motion. Speaking from personal experience (I do martial arts), being able to mentally picture where my feet will land, where my arms must move, and how much space I require has helped me execute complex moves. Being able to orient yourself mentally is key in sports such as figure skating, and allows people to move better. Geography is in your body!