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This research project examined whether athletes have better spatial abilities and memory for location than non-athletes. Due to their extensive experience in tracking the location of objects and teammates in relation to spatial layouts, athletes were predicted to outperform their non-athlete counterparts on spatial tasks. Similarly, while everyday short-term memory should be equivalent for athletes and non-athletes, memory for location was hypothesized to be better for athletes. To test the similarity of everyday short-term memory, strings of letters were presented which participants had to recall immediately. Athletes and non-athletes were equivalent in performance for this typical short-term memory task, suggesting that any difference in performance on other tasks was due to a more specialized form of memory. To test memory for location, a moving object was presented on a computer monitor among a varying number of distracters, with or without a landmark. Participants were then asked to recall the beginning or ending location of the moving object. As expected, memory performance decreased with an increase in the number of distracters, but even more so for non-athletes. When a landmark was unavailable, athletes performed much better than non-athlete participants demonstrating a disparity in memory performance. These results suggest that athletes have improved spatial abilities due to consistent practice. Facilitation of memory for location is believed to be due to the increased ability of the athletes to use the spatial coordinates of the landmark as a reference for the location of the object.
Benjamin R. Kunz, Susan T. Davis
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Stander Symposium poster
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Miranda, Guiseppe G.; Pytel, Lauren M.; Fitzharris, Alex J.; and Sander, Marissa E., "Measuring Spatial Intelligence and Memory for Location: Athletes v. Non-Athletes" (2014). Stander Symposium Posters. 480.
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