Test your concentration and mental self-rotation skills with this quick brainteaser


What is men­tal self-rotation?

It is the cog­ni­tive skill to imag­ine your­self in dif­fer­ent loca­tions in space and to imag­ine your­self mov­ing accord­ing­ly. We need that skill in every­day activ­i­ties such as read­ing a map or find­ing our car in the park­ing lot.

  • Abil­i­ty involved: ego­cen­tric spa­tial trans­for­ma­tions (yes, that is the sci­en­tif­ic expres­sion) or men­tal self-rotation.
  • Brain struc­ture involved: most­ly pari­etal lobes.

Let’s take an example.

Imag­ine that you plan to go to a new Whole Foods store. You won­der whether going North on Big Bend Avenue you would have to make a right or a left turn onto Forsyth Blvd to get to Whole Foods. You then look at the map that your spouse has laid out on the table. It turns out that the map is upside down so your per­spec­tive is not aligned with the one shown on the map (see Fig­ure 1 below, box A). How do you get the answer to your question?

mental rotation brain teaser

–Fig­ure 1

The map is upside down (A). The red dot rep­re­sents your car’s posi­tion. Your goal is to go to Whole Foods (W). You can either per­form an object rota­tion (B), that is imag­ine the map rotat­ing, or a self rota­tion ©, that is imag­ine your­self at the red dot location.

To align your per­spec­tive with the one showed on the map, you could imag­ine the map rotat­ing until it is upright. This is shown at the top right cor­ner of Fig­ure 1 above (Box B). This is what psy­chol­o­gists call men­tal rota­tion of object. Anoth­er solu­tion, which requires a high­er degree of con­cen­tra­tion, is to imag­ine view­ing the map from the oth­er side of the table. This is shown at the bot­tom right cor­ner of Fig­ure 1 above (Box C). Once you have imag­ined your­self on the oth­er side of the table you can use your body coor­di­nates and deter­mine that you will have to take a left on Forsyth. In that case, the map is not mov­ing but you are mov­ing. This is what psy­chol­o­gists call men­tal self-rotation.

Ready to imag­ine your­self mov­ing in space?

For each map below count how many left and right turns you have to make to go from the Cir­cle to the Tri­an­gle. Fol­low the arrows. Do not move your body or your hands, try to do every­thing mentally.

brain teasers

mind games mental rotation

mind teasers mental rotation



Map 1: 3 left runs and 3 right turns

Map 2: 3 left runs and 3 right turns

Map 3: 6 left runs and 4 right turns



Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, PhD is a sci­en­tist, edu­ca­tor, and con­tribut­ing author to The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age.

–> For more fun cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion, you may well enjoy these Top 25 Brain Teasers

About SharpBrains

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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