Differences in Spatial Knowledge Acquired from Maps and Navigation

by Perry W. Thorndyke, Barbara Hayes-Roth

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Proposes models of the spatial knowledge people acquire from maps and navigation and the procedures required for spatial judgments using this knowledge. From a map people acquire survey knowledge encoding global spatial relations. This knowledge resides in memory in images that can be scanned and measured like a physical map. From navigation people acquire procedural knowledge of the routes connecting diverse locations. People combine mental simulation of travel through the environment and informal algebra to compute spatial judgments. An experiment in which subjects learned an environment from navigation or from a map evaluates predictions of these models. With moderate exposure, map learning is superior for judgments of relative location and straight-line distance among objects. Learning from navigation is superior for orienting oneself with respect to unseen objects and estimating route distances. With extensive exposure, the performance superiority of maps over navigation vanishes. These and other results are consonant with the proposed mechanisms.

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