What Is Spatial-Temporal Reasoning?

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  • Written By: Megan Shoop
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2019
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Spatial-temporal reasoning is the cognitive ability to picture a spatial pattern and understand how items or pieces can fit into that space. Those with a gift for this kind of reasoning can often visualize how things fit together, step-by-step, and how they can be manipulated into different patterns. Problem-solving skills, organizational skills, and a talent for putting puzzles together often go along with this kind of reasoning. Though nearly everyone has the capacity for this kind of reasoning, these abilities often vary from person to person.

Children may show a talent for spatial-temporal reasoning early in life. Little ones who enjoy building with blocks, assembling puzzles, painting, and playing musical instruments may all show high capacities for different kinds of spatial-temporal thought. Kids who assemble blocks and puzzles easily, for instance, may be able to look at the disassembled pieces and visualize how they’ll fit together. This is often the kind of reasoning that architects, carpenters, and sculptors use.


Those who show a propensity for visual arts, such as painting or drawing, have another kind of spatial-temporal reasoning. They can often visualize a finished piece of art, then move backward in their reasoning to picture how the basic layout and shapes fit onto the piece of paper or canvas. Someone talented in this area can often draw in three dimensions, can picture shading and light sources easily, and can draw all of the figures in a work to scale. These people may also play with scale and color because they can visualize how stretching, shrinking, or coloring something will change its look and meaning in the work.

Musical talent is one of the most widely-acknowledged uses of spatial-temporal reasoning. Those with this kind of talent can not only picture notes on a page, they can visualize how music for several different instruments will fit together. Individuals who write music often visualize notes as a large puzzle, fitting different fractions of notes and rests together to create a whole piece of music. For some, this takes years of study, while others have extremely advanced musical spatial-temporal reasoning.

Individuals with advanced spatial-temporal reasoning often show it in the way their homes and lives are organized. Someone with this kind of talent usually keeps an organized home and is very adept at packing boxes, organizing closets, and putting away dishes. They may also clean more efficiently because they can see how to move through a room quickly while still dusting all of the surfaces or vacuuming in all of the corners. These people often find an organized environment more restful and aesthetically pleasing than a messy one.


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