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Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. The location of objects in relation to other objects can be perceived of and communicated in different ways. Assuming that variance in spatial Frame of Reference (FoR) use may be explained by practical professional requirements, we reasoned that medical professionals may increasingly use the intrinsic FoR which because of its observer-independence is less prone to misunderstandings than relative FoRs. We compared FoR-use of beginner and advanced medical students (n = 142) to that of law students (n = 191) using 40 ambiguous referencing tasks. We found that medical students applied the intrinsic FoR more frequently than law students in a medical yet not in a generic context. Beginners did not differ from advanced students. Within contexts, individuals were highly consistent in their FoR-use. Investigation of latencies indicates that processing of the intrinsic FoR becomes easier with practice. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article


Applied Cognitive Psychology

Publication Date





580 - 590