External Normalization: Testing a Cognitive Offloading Account


When individuals are presented with complex arrays at non-canonical orientations (e.g., rotated text) they frequently physically rotate to approximate the orientation of the stimulus (i.e., external normalization). One view of this natural behavior is that individuals are offloading internal cognitive demands (e.g., internal normalization) by adopting an external solution (i.e., external normalization). We test this account here by combining a stimulus rotation manipulation with a stimulus repetition manipulation. Previous research has demonstrated that stimulus repetition reduces the cost of stimulus rotation on performance. In other words, repetition putatively reduces the “internal” costs of stimulus rotation. Thus, stimulus repetition should reduce the frequency of external normalization. Consistent with the cognitive offloading account, repetition reduced the frequency of spontaneous physical head rotations while individuals read rotated text. Discussion focuses on the implication of these results for understanding cognitive offloading and the embodied and embedded nature of cognition.

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