Spatial Learning: What works now and what might work later

Interestingly, in Richardson et al.’s (1999) study on spatial cognition and learning, distinctions were made between how people perceive space on a map, while walking the route themselves, and while walking the route on a virtual tour. Differences were noted between map and navigation methods, as well as between real and virtual environments. No differences were perceived between map and navigation users, leading the authors to believe that maps are a quick and easy way to give orientation of space. However, between real and virtual navigation environments, participants had much poorer spatial learning in the virtual environment. In particular, VE participants had trouble with spatial learning between floors, as opposed to on a flat plane.


While VE did not have the best results in this study, that is not to say that they should be abandoned entirely. They bring numerous benefits over real navigation, especially for handicapped people or those who do not have the financial capacity or time to visit some locations. The amount of spatial learning in a VE is surely related to the quality of the VE itself. With better geovisualiation and improved processing ability, the performance of the VE may be improved to the point where it becomes a viable option over a real environment. Currently, VEs are only effective at translation but not rotational updating, however this could change with improved technology.


Pointy McPolygon


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