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Must Geologists Have High Spatial Ability to be Successful in Visual Penetration?

Dale Klopfer1, Charles Onasch2, Guy Zimmerman3, Laura Marie Leventhal3, Justin Gilkey3, Brandi A. Klein4, and Samuel D. Jaffee3
1Department of Psychology
2Department of Geology
3Department of Computer Science, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH
3Department of Psychology, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MI

Abstract

Cognitive scientists and geoscience educators have noted the importance of spatial thinking in the geosciences and recognized that geologists typically possess good spatial thinking skills (e.g., Black, 2005; Ishikawa & Kastens, 2005; Kali & Orion, 1996; Libarkin & Brick, 2002; Rapp & Uttal, 2006; Shipley, Manduca, Resnick, & Schilling, 2009). It is also known that the quality of spatial thinking used to solve specific problems in science and engineering can improve with training and that those with greater levels of training and expertise may perform better (e.g., Duesbury & O'Neil, 1996; Hegarty, Keehner, Khooshabeh, & Montello, 2009.). But spatial thinking actually encompasses a number of dimensions and abilities (see Hegarty & Waller, 2006). One aspect of spatial thinking that seems to be particularly relevant in the geosciences but has received comparatively little attention is visual penetration ability (VPA): the ability to visualize internal or hidden structures that lie beyond visible surface structure (Kali & Orion, 1996). Data from our lab indicate that VPA varies with other measures of spatial ability (SA) and that people with high VPA are able to visualize further into a structure than those with low VPA. In this project, we operationalize VPA as the ability to create cross-sections through geologic blocks. We examined the subject variables of SA and geologic expertise and varied geologic structures and the position of cross section to better understand their relation to VPA. In particular, we explored the question: must geologists have high levels of spatial ability to be successful in visual penetration?

 

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #120140© 2014 AAPG Hedberg Conference 3D Structural Geologic Interpretation: Earth, Mind and Machine, June 23-27, 2013, Reno, Nevada