Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Learn about cognition and mental self-rotation with these quick brain teasers



Men­tal self-rota­tion is the cog­ni­tive skill to imag­ine your­self in space and to imag­ine your­self mov­ing — such as when you read­ing a map or find­ing your car in the park­ing lot.

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 to the right, box A). How do you decide whether to turn left or right?

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 shown 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.

Now the brain teas­er part: 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 cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion, vis­it these Top 25 Brain Teasers for Teens and Adults, and explore What are Cog­ni­tive Abil­i­ties and Skills, and How to Boost Them?

Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Categories: Brain Teasers, Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning

Tags: , ,

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

Search in our archives

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)