The influence of visual-spatial ability and study procedures on map learning skill

by Cathy Stasz, Perry W. Thorndyke

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An investigation of the influence of two sources of individual differences in knowledge acquisition from maps: abilities and learning procedures. Twenty-five subjects provided verbal protocols while attempting to learn two maps. Visual spatial ability was highly correlated with recall of spatial attributes of the map and with overall learning performance, while associative memory ability was most correlated with verbal attribute recall. Subject-selected procedures for encoding spatial information and assessing learning progress also distinguished the behavior of successful and less successful learners. However, high- and low-ability subjects differed little in the study procedures they chose. Although both ability differences and procedure use were important contributors to performance, direct comparison of these factors suggested that abilities are most predictive of map learning. It is concluded that: (1) effective study procedures can influence map learning performance, and (2) high-ability subjects benefit more from using these procedures than do low-ability subjects.

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