Distorted mental spatial representation of multi-level buildings - Humans are biased towards equilateral shapes of height and width

Ertl, M.; Klaus, M.; Brandt, T.; Dieterich, M.; Mast, Fred W. (2019). Distorted mental spatial representation of multi-level buildings - Humans are biased towards equilateral shapes of height and width. Scientific reports, 9(15046), pp. 1-7. Springer Nature 10.1038/s41598-019-50992-6

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A distorted model of a familiar multi-level building with a systematic overestimation of the height was demonstrated earlier in psychophysical and real world navigational tasks. In the current study we further investigated this phenomenon with a tablet-based application. Participants were asked to adjust height and width of the presented buildings to best match their memory of the dimensional ratio. The estimation errors between adjusted and true height-width ratios were analyzed. Additionally, familiarity with respect to in- and outside of the building as well as demographic data were acquired. A total of 142 subjects aged 21 to 90 years from the cities of Bern and Munich were tested. Major results were: (1) a median overestimation of the height of the multi-level buildings of 11%; (2) estimation errors were significantly less if the particular building was unknown to participants; (3) in contrast, the height of tower-like buildings was underestimated; (4) the height of long, flat shaped buildings was overestimated. (5) Further features, such as the architectonical complexity were critical. Overall, our internal models of large multi-level buildings are distorted due to multiple factors including geometric features and memory effects demonstrating that such individual models are not rigid but plastic with consequences for spatial orientation and navigation.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Neurology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology, Perception and Methodology

UniBE Contributor:

Ertl, Matthias; Klaus, Manuel Patrick and Mast, Fred


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Springer Nature




Matthias Ertl

Date Deposited:

31 Oct 2019 12:47

Last Modified:

19 Oct 2021 10:18

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:






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