Spatial Ability: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will define spatial ability for you. Then, via numerous day to day as well as professional examples, you'll learn exactly how and where spatial abilities are used.

What is Spatial Ability?

What does a radiologist, engineer, baseball player, and a cartographer have in common? They are all people who must have some pretty good spatial abilities. Spatial ability can be seen as a form of intelligence where a person demonstrates the capacity to mentally generate, transform, and rotate a visual image and thus understand and recall spatial relationships between real and imagined objects.

This lesson is going to provide numerous examples of spatial abilities.

Day to Day

Jim is using his spatial abilities today to mail a package to his mom. See, he has a relatively small box and a lot of weird-shaped objects he has to put into that box. So when he is trying to pack the box, he first imagines in his mind which objects will fit where in the box and thus, how they can be best arranged with respect to one another in such a confined space.

Annie has really long and beautiful hair. But that hair takes a lot of effort to maintain! She spends about 10-15 minutes every morning brushing it in front of the mirror. She relies on spatial ability to understand the mirror image and how to brush her hair while looking into the mirror.

Then there's little Jack. Little Jack is starting 4th grade today. It's the same school as the one he went to during 3rd grade, but it's been a long summer break. So as Jack rides on the bus to school, he recalls the layout of the school in his head to figure out where his first class is going to be and how best to get there.

Morgan is driving to work today. Morgan knows that if he doesn't watch the road and surrounding cars and objects carefully, he might hit one of them, ruining his day. So Morgan uses his spatial ability to carefully drive around obstacles, between cars, and stay on the road in general!

You need to have good spatial ability to navigate these roads.
You need to have good spatial ability to navigate these roads.

Alexa is traveling through Patagonia. Problem is? There's no signal for her to use GPS. Alexa has to rely on a good old map. She looks at the map, a topographical one at that, and tries to figure out where she is on the map and where she needs to go and how to get there in the surrounding area. She relies heavily on her spatial ability to relate the map to the real world and vice versa to find her way around.

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