Map memories

In their 1999 study, Richardson et al. compared how subjects learn to navigate their environments from maps, navigation, and virtual copies of the environments. They found that people tend to learn more effectively from maps than from virtual environments. The paper itself is thorough and describes in detail the authors’ procedure and findings. I happen to think the final discoveries, however, are not terribly surprising.

I have always thought that some people (such as myself) are naturally “map people” while others are more “trial and error” or experiential learners. While map readers are, according to Richardson et al., heavily dependent on consistent orientation, they are more aware of the greater surroundings and the bigger picture. Being aware of causality, such as “if I turn left, then I will see the elevator at the end of the hall,” enables one to form mental maps and think ahead in the navigation process. Experiential learners, on the other hand, will most likely navigate by landmark in a step-by-step process that is more shortsighted. Additionally, in terms of longer-term memory, I would not be surprised if map readers could, in a sense, recite a navigation process from memory more easily than could an experiential learner. These are just my conjectures, but if Richardson et al. had accurate conclusions, then it is fairly clear that map readers are already at an advantage.

– JMonterey

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