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Landmark-based navigation instructions improve incidental spatial knowledge acquisition in real-world environments

Wunderlich, Anna; Gramann, Klaus

The repeated use of navigation assistance systems leads to decreased processing of the environment. Previous studies demonstrated that auditory references to landmarks in navigation instructions can improve incidental spatial knowledge acquisition when driving a single route through an unfamiliar virtual environment. Based on these results, three experiments were conducted to investigate the generalizability and ecological validity of incidental landmark and route knowledge acquisition induced by landmark-based navigation instructions. In the first experiment, spatial knowledge acquisition was tested after watching an interactive video showing the navigation of a real-world urban route. A second experiment investigated incidental spatial knowledge acquisition during assisted navigation when participants walked through the same real-world, urban environment. The third experiment tested the acquired spatial knowledge two weeks after participants had walked through the real-world environment. All experiments demonstrated better performance in a cued-recall task for participants navigating with landmark-based navigation instructions as compared to standard instructions. Different levels of information provided with landmark-based instructions impacted landmark recognition dependent on the delay between navigation and test. The results replicated an improved landmark and route knowledge when using landmark-based navigation instructions emphasizing that auditory landmark augmentation enhances incidental spatial knowledge acquisition, and that this enhancement can be generalized to real-life settings. This research is paving the way for navigation assistants that, instead of impairing spatial knowledge acquisition, incidentally foster the acquisition of landmark and route knowledge during every-day navigation.
Published in: Journal of Environmental Psychology, 10.1016/j.jenvp.2021.101677, Elsevier