: Given this depiction of some of the operations of spatial thinking in geoscience, we can characterize spatial thinking as consisting of five major processes.

These linked operations begin with observing, describing, recording, classifying, recognizing, remembering, and communicating the two- or three-dimensional shape, internal structure, orientation, and/or position of objects, properties, or processes.

The next step involves mentally manipulating those shapes, structures, orientations or positions—for example, by rotation, translation, deformation, or partial removal.

The third step involves making interpretations about what caused the objects, properties, or processes to have those particular shapes, structures, orientations, and/or positions. With this understanding in mind, it is possible to make predictions about the consequences or implications of the observed shapes, internal structures, orientations, and/or positions.

Finally, geoscientists can use spatial thinking processes as a short-cut, metaphor, or mental crutch to think about processes or properties that are distributed across some dimension other than physical space.