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Modified navigation instructions for spatial navigation assistance systems lead to incidental spatial learning

Gramann, Klaus; Hoepner, Paul; Karrer-Gauss, Katja

Spatial cognitive skills deteriorate with the increasing use of automated GPS navigation and a general decrease in the ability to orient in space might have further impact on independence, autonomy, and quality of life. In the present study we investigate whether modified navigation instructions support incidental spatial knowledge acquisition. A virtual driving environment was used to examine the impact of modified navigation instructions on spatial learning while using a GPS navigation assistance system. Participants navigated through a simulated urban and suburban environment, using navigation support to reach their destination. Driving performance as well as spatial learning was thereby assessed. Three navigation instruction conditions were tested: (i) a control group that was provided with classical navigation instructions at decision points, and two other groups that received navigation instructions at decision points including either (ii) additional irrelevant information about landmarks or (iii) additional personally relevant information (i.e., individual preferences regarding food, hobbies, etc.), associated with landmarks. Driving performance revealed no differences between navigation instructions. Significant improvements were observed in both modified navigation instruction conditions on three different measures of spatial learning and memory: subsequent navigation of the initial route without navigation assistance, landmark recognition, and sketch map drawing. Future navigation assistance systems could incorporate modified instructions to promote incidental spatial learning and to foster more general spatial cognitive abilities. Such systems might extend mobility across the lifespan.
Published in: Frontiers in Psychology: Cognition, 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00193, Frontiers Research Foundation