Spatial Cognition and the Elastic Brain

Last week I stepped out of the St. Joseph metro station at a stop I don’t normally exit. I gathered my bearings by assessing what surrounded me and began to walk to my final destination. After a second, I stopped to check the map on phone (a reaction I now have—my iPhone apparently rules my life) and realized I was walking in the wrong direction. “Thank iPhone!” I thought to myself, and plugged my headphones in and began the trek towards Saint Laurent. After 15 minutes I stopped and realized I had been walking in the wrong direction. I was right(or left??) all along!

I checked my phone and realized that with the new update, my phone now orients the Google maps in relation to where I’m pointing. Assuming that the map on my phone pointed north, when I was actually facing south, I ended up guiding myself in the wrong direction.

I really enjoyed the article about spatial cognition. It’s fascinating how we instinctively orient our world “North.” I believe, though, that this instinct is not actually instinct. I believe that it’s a product of our upbringing. Montrealer North is never actually north. Collectively, Montrealers accept this false north; we are however aware that our conception of North is in reality more north–west. The human brain is extremely elastic! It has the power to re-orientate itself after wearing “inverted goggles” (perceptual adaptation) and has the power to re-wire language and thought after a stroke ( I imagine that no matter the convention, the brain has the ability to adapt to such changes.

If only it could turn off the compass on my iPhone…


One Response to “Spatial Cognition and the Elastic Brain”

  1. Peter says:

    Andrew – that is an awesome story about your iPhone tricking you! Glad that you liked the article and the topic.