ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (5): 796-805.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00796

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A new perspective on spatial interaction research: The effects of multiple social factors

XIAO Chengli(), SUI Yuqing, XIAO Suheng, ZHOU Renlai()   

  1. Department of Psychology, School of Social and Behavior Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
  • Received:2020-07-03 Online:2021-05-15 Published:2021-03-30
  • Contact: XIAO Chengli,ZHOU Renlai;


Spatial interaction is critical for the survival and social interaction of human beings, including domains of spatial language communication and perspective-taking. In spatial language communication, people are usually located in different locations, so the spatial relationships observed from different perspectives are not the same. Therefore, perspective choices and switches are required in spatial language communication. What factors affect perspective choices and switches in spatial language communication is the critical scientific question in this area. Before the spatial language is produced and comprehended, people have recognized that the other’s perspective is different from their own just by visually observing. It involves an important spatial cognitive mechanism, which is called “perspective-taking”. The core issue in this area is: What factors affect the efficiency and spontaneousness of perspective-taking? 
The three elements of spatial interaction are the subject, object, and spatial environment, so this process is not only related to spatial cognition but also closely related to social cognition. Traditionally, studies on strategy selection and efficacy of spatial interaction focus on the effects of spatial factors. However, recent studies investigated multiple social factors, including the individual’s social cognitive traits, the partners’ social attributes, and social cues in the spatial environments. An individual’s social cognitive traits mainly involve social skill, empathy, psychopathy. The partners’ social attributes mainly involve human/nonhuman attributes, spatial cognitive ability, and sight state. Social cues in the spatial environments mainly involve the affordance of objects and the alignment between spatial orientation and partners’ orientation. All these factors would affect the perspective choice of individuals. 
The theoretical explanations of the influence of social factors on spatial interaction are limited or under debate. Currently, the main theoretical explanation in spatial language communication is the principle of least collaborative effort, and the main theoretical explanations in perspective-taking are implicit mentalizing and submentalizing. According to the principle of least collaborative effort, the conversation partners, instead of minimizing the speaker’s or the addressee’s effort individually, take account of both sides’ effort and adapt their perspective to share the cognitive burden and facilitate their coordination. Thus both the speaker and the listener are influenced by social factors in themselves, in partners, and in the environment. The theoretical hypothesis of implicit mentalizing assumes that perspective-taking is the processing of others’ mental states. In contrast, the hypothesis of submentalizing assumes that perspective-taking is caused by attentional shifting. Based on these two hypotheses, others’ mental states, sights, and spatial cues in the environment will affect the process of perspective-taking. 
Currently, there are some limitations in this research area, such as unbalanced research focuses, attributing spatial interaction targets with single and limited criteria, exploring social factors unsystematically and not extensively, and providing empirical evidence without theoretical constructs. Future research should focus on these limitations and promote the cross-domain integration between social cognition and spatial cognition.

Key words: spatial language communication, perspective-taking, social factors, spatial cognition, social cognition

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