The effect of reliable heading updates on urban wayfinding Project for Master Degree of Applied Science

The effect of reliable heading updates on urban wayfinding
Project for Master Degree of Applied Science (Geographic Information Systems) at The University of Melbourne

by Wilfred Waters, 2010


Prior research about wayfinding has found that females tend to employ a single strategy based on landmarks, where males are more versatile, using landmarks and global orientation information such as cardinal directions (Lawton, 2010). It was proposed that this strategy difference occurs due to males’ better sense of direction, which would deliver more trustworthy indications of current heading. Since males’ greater versatility has often been linked with better navigation performance (for example Sandstrom, Kaufman, & Huettel, 1998; Saucier et al., 2002) this study sought to contribute to the growing body of literature on methods of training to increase sense of direction (such as Hund and Minarik, 2006; Hund & Nazarczuk, 2009). An experimental procedure was used to investigate the possibility that the provision of reliable cardinal direction heading updates to participants would lead to a dual strategy for orientation in those that usually use a single strategy based on landmarks. This was done in an urban navigation context, with the main dependent variable being level of recall for route structure. Whilst the present study, using the Santa Barbara Sense of Direction Scale, revealed that males had a higher self-reported sense of direction, no sex differences in performance were found on the route structure recall tasks. This was interpreted as being an artifact of the sedentary nature of the procedure, which involved watching a video of someone else navigating using a car. Another factor of this stimulus was that the strategies mentioned above may not have been required since the route video may not have been considered by participants to be a disorientation threat. The study is therefore viewed as an ideal candidate for replication by future investigators, who may wish to compare performance in a real, or virtual, environment where participants are required to deploy orientation strategies.

KEYWORDS: wayfinding strategies, sense of direction, cardinal directions, navigation, sex differences

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