Tool Use and the Effect of Action on the Imagination
Three studies examined the claim that hand movements can facilitate imagery for object rotations but that this facilitation depends on people's model of the situation. In Experiment 1, physically turning a block without vision reduced mental rotation times compared with imagining the same rotation without bodily movement. In Experiment 2, pulling a string from a spool facilitated participants' mental rotation of an object sitting on the spool. In Experiment 3, depending on participants' model of the spool, the exact same pulling movement facilitated or interfered with the exact same imagery transformation. Results of Experiments 2 and 3 indicate that the geometric characteristics of an action do not specify the trajectory of an imagery transformation. Instead, they point to people's ability to model the tools that mediate between motor activity and its environmental consequences and to transfer tool knowledge to a new situation.
Schwartz, D.L., & Holton, D.L. (2000). Tool use and the effect of action on the imagination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 26, 1655-1665.