…we can order component tasks of spatial thinking in terms of relative difficulty.
The first and easiest step is extracting spatial structures. This process of pattern description involves identifying relations between the components of a spatial representation and understanding them in terms of the parts and wholes that give rise to patterns and coherent wholes. The second step, performing spatial transformations, is harder. Translations in space or scale transformations (changes in viewing distance) are easier than rotations or changes of perspective (changes in viewing angle or azimuth). Imagining the motions of different parts in relation to each other—running the object—can be very difficult. The third step, drawing functional inferences, is the most difficult and yet the most central to the process of scientific thinking. It requires establishing temporal sequences and cause-and-effect relations.