Brain Teaser: Test your mental rotation skills

Are you famil­iar with men­tal rota­tion? It refers to mov­ing things around in your head. It is one of the numer­ous visu­ospa­tial skills that we all have.

Let’s take an exam­ple. Can you pic­ture in your head an arrow point­ing to the right? Now, turn this arrow so it points to the left. Done? You have just per­formed a men­tal rota­tion. Although it is rare to con­scious­ly imag­ine objects mov­ing, peo­ple auto­mat­i­cal­ly use this abil­ity when they read maps, use tools, play chess, arrange fur­ni­ture, dri­ve in traf­fic, etc.

Men­tal rota­tion relies most­ly on the pari­etal areas of your brain (yel­low sec­tion in the brain image above).

Here is a brain exer­cise to stim­u­late your men­tal rota­tion skills.

  • The top shape is your model.
  • Among the 3 shapes below the mod­el, only one match­es the mod­el. To fig­ure out which one does you will prob­a­bly have to move the shapes around in your head.
  • Move the shapes from left to right or right to left but DO NOT FLIP them around.

First set

Sec­ond set

Third Set

To see the cor­rect answers click here: 


First set: The sec­ond shape match­es the model.

Sec­ond set: The sec­ond shape match­es the model.

Third set: The first shape match­es the model.


More brain teas­er games:

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  1. webhill on September 28, 2010 at 9:52

    Inter­est­ing. I did­n’t do this by mov­ing the shapes in my head — which would nev­er work, I’m spa­tial-rela­tions chal­lenged. I did get the answers pret­ty fast though, and I did it by just notic­ing unique fea­tures of the mod­el — for exam­ple, the first test, the short side of the poly­gon has a sin­gle out­lined cres­cent attached to it. Only one of the answers meets that cri­te­ria. For the sec­ond test, only one of the answers has a cir­cle and a tri­an­gle-with-its-base-attached-to-the-long-side-of-the-rec­tan­gle adja­cent to one of the right angles. You get the idea. 

    I’d love to see a test that tru­ly mea­sures abil­i­ty to men­tal­ly rotate items. I’m sure I’d total­ly fail :)

  2. Anon on October 2, 2010 at 1:33

    As a for­mer Mechan­i­cal Design­er mov­ing or mir­ror­ing the pat­terns in my head is exact­ly what I did. Ear­ly train­ing for any engi­neer­ing stu­dent involves many hours of these spa­tial-rela­tions type exer­cis­es as it is a nec­es­sary skill. With­out them, you might want to take up a dif­fer­ent field of study, yet it is a skill that can be learned.

  3. Pascale on October 4, 2010 at 9:00

    Thanks for your comments!
    Anon: your exam­ple is a great one to show how we can train our brains to learn and boost any types of skills.

  4. Tony Horton on October 6, 2010 at 11:59

    I think I end­ed up cheat­ing on this, my mind just want­ed to flip it, I did­n’t real­ly rotate it like I was sup­posed too.

  5. Mike on October 9, 2010 at 12:07

    It can be dif­fi­cult and most all engi­neer­ing stu­dent strug­gle a bit with it at one time or anoth­er. I recall hav­ing some issues with Flat Pat­tern devel­op­ment but in time I mas­tered that and became rather good at it. About eight years ago I expe­ri­enced a rup­tured cere­bral aneurysm and since then my math skills have not been what they should but the spa­tial-rela­tions skills are still there and maybe even a bit bet­ter. I can usu­al­ly still look at a draw­ing and, in my mind, project every­thing into a solid.

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SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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