Acquisition and Development of Spatial Knowledge during Wayfinding
In this dissertation, we investigated the ways in which the acquisition and development of spatial knowledge are affected by 1) the type of spatial relations predominately experienced during learning (routes vs. straight-line paths between locations), 2) environmental complexity and 3) the availability of rotational body-based information. Participants learned the layout of the environment in a virtual shopping mall by repeatedly searching for target storefronts located in one of the buildings. We created two novel learning conditions to encouraged participants to use either route knowledge (routes connecting the storefronts) or survey knowledge (direct, straight-line spatial relations between the storefronts) to find the target, and measured the development of route and survey knowledge in both learning conditions. Environmental complexity was manipulated by varying the alignment of the buildings with the enclosure. Body-based information was manipulated by having participants perform the experiment in front of a computer monitor or in a head-mounted display. After navigation, participants pointed to various storefronts from a fixed position and orientation. Results showed that the frequently used spatial knowledge could be developed comparably across environments with different complexities, but the infrequently used spatial knowledge was less developed in the complex environment. Furthermore, rotational body-based information facilitated spatial learning under some conditions. Our findings further reveal the mechanisms of spatial knowledge acquisition and transfer, and have implications for designing training paradigms that could improve people’s navigational efficiency.