Acquisition and transfer of spatial knowledge during wayfinding

Qiliang He, Timothy P. McNamara, Bobby Bodenheimer, Alexander Klippel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


In the current study, we investigated the ways in which the acquisition and transfer of spatial knowledge were affected by (a) the type of spatial relations predominately experienced during learning (routes determined by walkways vs. straight-line paths between locations); (b) environmental complexity; and (c) the availability of rotational body-based information. Participants learned the layout of a virtual shopping mall by repeatedly searching for target storefronts located in 1 of the buildings. We created 2 novel learning conditions to encourage participants to use either route knowledge (paths on walkways between buildings) or survey knowledge (straight-line distances and directions from storefront to storefront) 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, and the visibility within space. Body-based information was manipulated by having participants perform the experiment in front of a computer monitor or using 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 similarly 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 certain conditions. Our results suggest that path integration may play an important role in spatial knowledge transfer, both from route to survey knowledge (cognitive map construction), and from survey to route knowledge (using cognitive map to guide wayfinding).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1364-1386
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Acquisition and transfer of spatial knowledge during wayfinding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this