2013. Vol.4, No.3, 165-168
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 165
Object-Spatial Imagery Types of Japanese College Students
Masahiro Kawahara1, Kazuo Matsuoka2
1University Education Center, Iwate University, Morioka, Japan
2Department of Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Iwate University,
Morioka, Japan
Received December 24th, 2012; revised January 21st, 2013; accepted February 18th, 2013
This study investigated the object-spatial imagery types found among Japanese college students. First, we
examined the descriptive statistics of the Japanese version of the Object-Spatial Imagery Questionnaire
object-spatial imagery scales, which measure respondents’ tendencies with respect to object-spatial im-
agery types. Although the means of these subscales were lower than those of the original versions, the raw
score distributions and gender differences were similar to those obtained using the original version. Addi-
tionally, we compared imagery types among students in seven different academic departments. Specifi-
cally, the results showed specific patterns of imagery type among students in each department, indicating
that the object-spatial imagery type model is applicable to Japanese college students and that individual
imagery type data would be helpful for career guidance.
Keywords: Object-Spatial Imagery Style; Object Imagery Type; Spatial Imagery Type
Cognitive neuroscience and behavior research have demon-
strated that visual imagery processing comprises two processes:
object and spatial imagery processing (Farah, Hammond, Le-
vine, & Calvanio, 1998; Kosslyn, 1994; Levine, Warach, &
Farah, 1985; Ungerleider & Mishkin, 1982). These processes
can be distinguished from each other both anatomically and
functionally. Object imagery processing is activated when par-
ticipants process objects or scenes in terms of color, shape, size,
and brightness; this type of processing is linked to the ventral
system. Spatial imagery processing is activated when partici-
pants process object location, movement, spatial relations, and
transformations; this type of processing is linked to the dorsal
These two processing pathways of visual imagery in the
brain have also been associated with individual differences in
visual imagery processing. Recently, the research group of
Kozhevnikov (Blajenkova, Kozhevnikov, & Motes, 2006;
Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov, 2010; Kozhevnikov, Kosslyn, &
Shephard, 2005; Kozhevnikov, Blazhenkova, & Becker, 2010)
proposed a new model of cognitive style (object-spatial im-
agery style) for preferences with respect to visual imagery. This
new cognitive style model divides people into object imagers
and spatial imagers. Object imagers tend to create colorful,
pictorial, high-resolution images of individual objects or scenes;
they perform very well on object measures (e.g., the Degraded
Pictures Test [DPT]). Spatial imagers tend to use imagery to
represent object locations and movement and spatial relations
among objects; they have an advantage on spatial imagery tests
(e.g., the Mental Rotation Test [MRT]).
Blajenkova et al. (2006) recently developed the Object-Spa-
tial Imagery Questionnaire (OSIQ) as a tool for measuring in-
dividuals’ object-spatial imagery type. Research using the
OSIQ has reported that scores on the OSIQ’s object imagery
scale were specifically related to performance on object visu-
alization tests or imagery questionnaires, such as the DPT or
the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ),
whereas scores on the OSIQ’s spatial imagery scale were spe-
cifically related to performance on spatial imagery tests, such as
the Paper Folding Test (PFT) or MRT (Blajenkova et al., 2006,
Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov, 2010). These imagery types have
also been associated with interpretations of kinematics graphs
and appreciation of abstract art (Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov,
2010). Additionally, neuroimaging research has revealed dif-
ferences in brain activity between object imagers and spatial
imagers while they imagined that they were creating line draw-
ings of common objects, such as pianos or pairs of scissors
(Motes, Malach, & Kozhevnikov, 2008).
Furthermore, educational research has reported that object
imagery plays a crucial role in creative thinking among visual
artists (Kassels, 1991; Rosenberg, 1987), and spatial imagery is
important for performance in professions such as machine de-
sign and engineering (Hegarty & Waller, 2005; Smith, 1964).
Recently, Blazhenkova and Kozhevnkov (2010) showed that
students majoring in visual arts succeeded on object measures
such as the DPT or the VVIQ but performed poorly on spatial
imagery tasks such as the MRT or the PFT, whereas students
majoring in science showed the opposite performance pattern.
These results suggested that individual imagery abilities relate
to individual aptitude in specialized areas.
However, there are large differences in cognitive style be-
tween Asians and Europeans/Americans (Nisbett, Peng, Choi,
& Norenzayan, 2001; Sternberg, 1997). Therefore, it is neces-
sary to determine whether the cognitive style model of ob-
ject-spatial imagery type obtained from participants in Europe
and America may be applicable to Japanese individuals. The
primary goal of the present study is to investigate object-spatial
imagery type in Japanese college students. Additionally, if im-
agery type is associated with college major or academic per-
formance, then individual tendencies with respect to imagery
type might be helpful for vocational guidance and education.
Hence, the secondary goal is to investigate object-spatial im-
agery type in students belonging to certain specialized depart-
ments, such as art, engineering, and medicine.
Participants. The participants were 914 undergraduate and
graduate students (493 male, 451 female) from Morioka Wel-
fare and Medical College, Iwate University, Iwate Medical
University, Morioka University, and Iwate Industrial Technol-
ogy Junior College. Their ages ranged 18 - 49 years (M = 19.08,
SD = 1.72). They were comprised by 86 (15 male, 71 female),
96 (47 male, 49 female), 114 (54 male, 60 female), 164 (58
male, 106 female), 173 (80 male, 93 female), 106 (64 male, 42
female), and 175 (145 male, 30 female) students in art, welfare,
agriculture, education, literature, medicine, and engineering
departments, respectively.
Questionnaire. We used the Japanese version of the OSIQ
(J-OSIQ), which was translated from the original version into
Japanese by Kawahara and Matsuoka (2012). Similar to the
original version, the J-OSIQ consists of object and spatial im-
agery scales (15 items each) to assess the tendency to employ
the object and spatial imagery types, respectively. The J-OSIQ
was confirmed to have high internal consistency reliability
(Cronbach’s α = .83 and .82 for the object and spatial imagery
scales, respectively) by Kawahara and Matsuoka (2012). The
questionnaire used a five-point scale (1 = totally disagree to 5 =
totally agree).
Procedure. The questionnaire was administered in groups of
50 - 150 participants. After being informed about the purpose
of the research and assured of their privacy by the researcher,
the participants were asked to read each item of the J-OSIQ and
respond by choosing one of the points on the scale. No time
limit was imposed for the completion of the questionnaire.
Before analyses, we recoded the scores of reverse items (i.e.,
totally disagree = 5, totally agree = 1). Scores on the object and
spatial imagery scales of the J-OSIQ were calculated by aver-
aging the ratings of the items loading on each subscale.
The means and standard deviations on the two subscales of
the J-OSIQ were M = 3.18 (SD = .62) and M = 2.39 (SD = .63)
for the object and spatial imagery scales, respectively. For
comparisons of ratings between the object and spatial imagery
scales of the J-OSIQ, the relationships between raw scores on
the J-OSIQ subscales and participants’ percentiles are shown in
Figure 1.
Furthermore, z-scores on the two J-OSIQ subscales were cal-
culated in order to confirm the normality of these scores’ dis-
tributions. The distributions of the object imagery z-score (zobj)
and the spatial imagery z-score (zspat) are shown in Figure 2.
One-sample Shapiro-Wilk tests revealed that although the dis-
tribution of zobj was normal (W = .997, p = .136, Skewness
= .041), that of zspat was not (W = .988, p = .001, Skewness
= .362).
Gender differences were found in both subscales of the
J-OSIQ (t = 3.72, p < .001 for the object scale; t = 11.51, p
< .001 for the spatial scale). Female participants had higher
object imagery scores than male participants, whereas male
participants had higher spatial imagery scores than female par-
Figure 1.
Distribution of raw scores on J-OSIQ object and spatial imagery scales
Figure 2.
Distributions of z-scores on object and spatial imagery scales. (a) Spa-
tial imagery z-scores; (b) Object imagery z-scores.
Student’s t-tests on the difference between actual and aver-
age zobj and zspat scores were conducted to assess the object and
spatial imagery types of students in each field of study. The
analysis revealed that the art students’ zobj scores were signifi-
cantly higher than average (t = 5.71, p < .001), whereas their
zspat scores were significantly lower than average (t = 2.89, p
< .01); the engineering student’s zobj and zspat scores showed the
opposite pattern to those of the art students (zobj, t = 2.52, p
< .05; zspat, t = 11.00, p < .001). In addition, both the zobj and
zspat scores of medical students were significantly higher than
average (zobj, t = 2.24, p < .05; zspat, t = 3.99, p < .001). In con-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
trast, those of the welfare students were significantly lower than
average (zobj, t = 2.83, p < .01; zspat, t = 3.00, p < .01). The
education and literature students scored significantly lower than
average only in zspat (education, t = 3.14, p < .01; literature, t =
7.23, p < .001). Finally, the agriculture students’ zobj and zspat
scores did not significantly differ from average values.
Additionally, a one-way ANOVA was performed to examine
the differences in zobj/zspat scores among the students in seven
departments. The students’ zobj scores differed significantly
among departments, F(6, 907) = 11.07, p < .001. Multiple com-
parisons with Bonferroni correction showed that the art stu-
dents’ zobj scores were significantly higher than those of stu-
dents in the other six fields. Furthermore, zobj scores were sig-
nificantly higher in medical and education students than welfare
students. Similarly, a one-way ANOVA on zspat scores revealed
significant differences among students in different departments,
F(6, 907) = 34.12, p< .001. Multiple comparisons with Bon-
ferroni correction showed that the engineering students’ zspat
scores were significantly higher than those of students in the
other six departments. In addition, the medical students’ zspat
scores were significantly higher than those of students in the art,
welfare, education, and literature departments. The patterns of
zobj and zspat scores in each field of study are shown in Figure 3.
The purpose of the present study was to examine object-spa-
tial imagery type in Japanese college students.
First, we investigated object-spatial imagery type in Japanese
college students by the means, standard deviations, score dis-
tributions, and gender differences of the object and spatial im-
agery scales of the J-OSIQ. The means and ratings of the
J-OSIQ object imagery scale tended to be higher than those of
the J-OSIQ spatial imagery scale. Furthermore, gender differ-
ences were found on both the object and spatial imagery scales
of the J-OSIQ. These results are consistent with those of previ-
ous studies (Blajenkova et al., 2006; Blazhenkova & Kozhev-
nikov, 2009) that assessed the reliability of the original version
of the questionnaire. On the other hand, although the means of
the two J-OSIQ subscales were slightly lower than those of the
original version (object imagery scale = 3.59; spatial imagery
scale = 2.93), these values are more in line with those of
Kawahara and Matsuoka (2012), who developed the J-OSIQ
(object imagery scale = 2.89; spatial imagery scale = 2.49).
Figure 3.
Object and spatial imagery z-scores for students in seven different
Overall, the descriptive statistics and gender differences of the
J-OSIQ in this study are consistent with those of previous stud-
ies (Blajenkova et al., 2006; Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov,
2009; Kawahara & Masuoka, 2012).
Second, we investigated the patterns of the object and spatial
imagery types of students in various academic fields. The art
students showed above-average zobj scores and below-average
zspat scores, whereas the engineering students showed a score
pattern opposite to that of the art students. These results support
those of previous studies (Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov, 2010;
Kozhevnikov et al., 2010), in which artists and scientists
showed trade-off between the object and spatial imagery types.
At the same time, this study also revealed that welfare students
showed below-average zobj and zspat scores and that medical
students showed above-average values. These results do not
correspond to trade-off between the object and spatial imagery
types. However, there is evidence showing that professionals in
humanities or social science are advantaged in verbal rather
than visual imagery processing (Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov,
2009). Therefore, students majoring in education, welfare, or
literature may prefer verbal processing over visual imagery
processing. Additionally, many medical skills require both
analytic processing (which is involved with spatial imagery)
and creative processing (which is closely related to object im-
agery; Fujioka, 1987). Hence, above-average scores on both zobj
and zspat might be obtained by medical students because their
educational training requires both analytic and creative thinking.
These findings suggest that the relationship between object and
spatial imagery types is not necessarily characterized by a
trade-off; therefore, trade-off theory is limited to students in
departments such as art and engineering.
Furthermore, we also compared the tendencies with respect
to object-spatial imagery type among students in seven different
academic fields. The results indicated that the art students had
the highest zobj scores and that the engineering students had the
highest zspat scores among the seven departments. These results
reveal that among the seven studied fields, the tendency to use
the object and spatial imagery types is the largest among stu-
dents majoring in art and engineering, respectively. In conclu-
sion, the different patterns of object-spatial imagery type
among students in seven different academic fields demonstrated
that the students in each department have specialized tendencies
in terms of object-spatial imagery type.
In summary, the present study showed that the cognitive
style model of object-spatial imagery type is applicable to
Japanese college students. Additionally, the differences in im-
agery type between students in seven different academic fields
led us to the conclusion that object-spatial imagery style is
closely related to academic curiosity and professional aptitude;
therefore, individual imagery type data might be helpful for
future interventions involving career guidance and educational
training. Recently, a new model of cognitive style (object-spa-
tial-verbal cognitive style) added a verbal dimension to the two
imagery dimensions proposed by Blazhenkova and Kozhev-
nikov (2009). Therefore, additional research on cognitive style,
including the verbal type, would be required in order to deter-
mine individuals’ object-spatial-verbal cognitive styles.
Blajenkova, O., Kozhevnikov, M., & Motes, M. A. (2006). Object-
spatial imagery: A new self-report imagery questionnaire. Applied
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 167
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Cognitive Psychology, 20, 239-263. doi:10.1002/acp.1182
Blazhenkova, O., & Kozhevnikov, M. (2009). The new object-spa-
tial-verbal cognitive style model: Theory and measurement. Applied
Cognitive Psychology, 23, 638-663. doi:10.1002/acp.1473
Blazhenkova, O., & Kozhevnikov, M. (2010). Visual-object ability: A
new dimension of non-verbal intelligence. Cognition, 117, 276-301.
Farah, M. J., Hammond, K. M., Levine, D. N., & Calvanio, R. (1988).
Visual and spatial mental imagery: Dissociable systems of represen-
tations. Cognitive Psychology, 20, 439-462.
Fujioka, H. (1987). Vocational preference and cognitive modes of
university students. The Journal of Educational Technology, 9, 53-
Hegarty, M., & Waller, D. A. (2005). Individual differences in spatial
abilities. In P. Shah, & A. Miyake (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook
of visuospatial thinking (pp. 121-169). Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press.
Kassels, S. (1991). Transforming imagery into art: A study of the life
and work of Georgia O’Keeffe. In R. G. Kunzendorf (Ed.), Mental
imagery (pp. 45-52). New York: Plenum Press.
Kawahara, M., & Matsuoka, K. (2012).Development of a Japanese
version of the Object-Spatial Imagery Questionnaire. Interdiscipli-
nary Information Sciences, 18 , 13-18. doi:10.4036/iis.2012.13
Kosslyn, S. M. (1994). Image and brain: The resolution of the imagery
debate. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Kozhevnikov, M., Blazhenkova, O., & Becker, M. (2010). Trade-off in
object versus spatial visualization abilities: Restriction in the devel-
opment of visual processing resources. Psychonomic Bulletin & Re-
view, 17, 29-35. doi:10.3758/PBR.17.1.29
Kozhevnikov, M., Kosslyn, S., & Shephard, J. (2005). Spatial versus
object visualizers: A new characterization of visual cognitive style.
Memory and Cognition, 33, 710-726. doi:10.3758/BF03195337
Levine, D. N., Warach, J., & Farah, M. J. (1985). Two visual systems
in mental imagery: Dissociation of “what” and “where” in imagery
disorders due to bilateral posterior cerebral lesions. Neurology, 35,
1010-1018. doi:10.1212/WNL.35.7.1010
Motes, M. A., Malach, R., & Kozhevnikov, M. (2008). Object-process-
ing neural efficiency differentiates object from spatial visualizers.
NeuroReport, 19, 1727-1731. doi:10.1097/WNR.0b013e328317f3e2
Nisbett, R. E., Peng, K., Choi, I., & Norenzayan, A. (2001). Culture and
systems of thought: Holistic versus analytic cognition. Psychological
Review, 108, 291-310. doi:10.1037//0033-295X.108.2.291
Rosenberg, H. S. (1987). Visual artists and imagery. Imagination, Cog-
nition, and Personalit y, 7, 77-93.
Smith, I. M. (1964). Spatial ability: Its educational and social signifi-
cance. London: University of London Press.
Sternberg, T. J. (1997). Thinking styles. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press.
Ungerleider, L. G., & Mishkin, M. (1982). Two cortical visual systems.
In D. J. Ingle, M. A. Goodale, & R. J. W. Mansfield (Eds.), Analysis
of visual behavior (pp. 549-586). Cambridge: MIT Press.