THE INFLUENCE OF WORKING MEMORY, SPATIAL REPRESENTATION AND PERSONALITY FACTORS IN NAVIGATING A VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT. Simona Gardini, Francesca Pazzaglia, Massimiliano Martinelli, Diego Varotto Department of General Psychology, University of Padua, Italy, [email protected] INTRODUCTION Navigating through the environment is a very familiar every-day task: people are often required to find a place in a city or orient themselves using a map. Knowledge of space and the experience of becoming familiar with the environment is affected by several factors depending on either the environment (e.g.richness of landmarks) or characteristics of the individual (good or poor spatial abilities). Several studies on sense of direction and way-finding have revealed great differences between individuals (Hirtle & Hudson, 1991; Montello & Pick, 1993). These differences have often been found to be related to gender (Devlin & Bernsteirn, 1997) and the individual’s attitude to assuming visual, route and survey spatial representation (Pazzaglia & De Beni, 2001). However, until now the cognitive mechanisms underlying way-finding abilities have not been entirely clarified. The general purpose of the present research is to investigate the relationship between way-finding and several cognitive and personality variables: visuo-spatial working memory ability, reward dependence and spatial anxiety traits. We also investigated whether the self-evaluation of sense of direction and the preferential attitude to assume a survey spatial representation is in relation to way-finding. A sample of undergraduate students was administered the Corsi’s Block Test (Milner, 1971), the Mental Rotation Test (Vanderberg and Kuse, 1978), the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (Cloninger, 1987), the Spatial Anxiety Scale (Lawton, 1994) and the Questionnaire on Spatial Representation (Pazzaglia et al., 2000). The participants also performed a way-finding task in a virtual environment, which represents an ecologically valid method for studying spatial cognition (Peruch and Gaunet, 1998). HYPOTHESES Visuo-spatial working memory abilities, spatial anxiety, reward dependence, self-evaluation of sense of direction, survey spatial representation are related to the way-finding performance. PARTICIPANTS: 60 undergraduate psychology students (48 females, 12 males, mean age 23 years) took part in the experiment. MATERIALS: Two versions (with and without landmarks) of a virtual 300-metre long route (Figs.1 and 2) in a full immersion 3D virtual environment (Fig.3), Corsi’s Block Test (Milner, 1971), the Mental Rotation Test (MRT; Vanderberg and Kuse, 1978), the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ; Cloninger, 1987), the Spatial Anxiety Scale (SAS; Lawton, 1994) and the Questionnaire on Spatial Representation (QSR; Pazzaglia et al., 2000). Fig 3. Virtual Reality equipment Fig. 1. Route with landmarks Fig. 2. Route with error barriers PROCEDURE The MRT, TPQ, SAS and QSR were administered in a group session, followed by an individual session which comprised the navigation task and the administration of the Corsi block test. In the navigation task each participant was guided through the route by an AVATAR in the first trial, and was then asked to find his/her way alone in the following trials, until he/she performed it without error. The number of errors was registered by means of barriers positioned at the nodes (Fig.2). When participants hit a barrier they were automatically reoriented. RESULTS Regarding the median scores in the MRT,TPQ, SAS, QSR and Corsi’s block test, we obtained groups with high and low scores for each test. They were compared considering the number of errors in the second and third trials of the navigation task.as dependent variables. 2.Spatial Anxiety 1.Mental Rotation Test Errors Second Route 6 4 2,84 2 6 4 2,22 1,06 2 0 0 HIGH LOW MENTAL ROTATION TEST HIGH LOW MENTAL ROTATION TEST 5 4,3 4,31 0 2,97 0 1,73 1,43 2 1 0 HIGH LOW REWARD DEPENDENCE 5.Survey spatial representation Errors First Route 0 HIGH LOW SURVEY SPATIAL REPRESENTATION t(1,58)=2.254, * p<.05 errors errors 5 3,57 4 2 HIGH LOW SPATIAL ANXIETY 1,13 Errors Second Route 3,97 4,80 4 2 t(1,58)=2.077, * p<.05 4 2 1,18 2,331 ,18 0 HIGH LOW SELF-EVALUATION OF SENSE OF DIRECTION HIGH LOW SELF-EVALUATION OF SENSE OF DIRECTION 6.Corsi’s Block Test. Errors Second Route t(1,58)=1.750, p<.085 5,45 6 0 HIGH LOW REWARD DEPENDENCE 0 t(1,58)=0.775, p<.453 errors 5 4 1,03 2 Errors First Route t(1,58)=-.547, p<.586 errors errors 5,57 2,1 4.Sense of Direction Errors Second Route t(1,58)=-2.591, * p<.05 4 HIGH LOW SPATIAL ANXIETY 3.Reward Dependence Errors First Route t(1,57)=-1.971, * p=.05 t(1,57)=.010, p<.992 errors 6 errors errors 8 t(1,57)=2.151, * p<.05 errors t (1,57)=3.165, * p<.005 Errors Second Route Errors First Route errors Errors First Route No significant relation appeared between the Forward and Backward Corsi Block Test and way-finding performance. 2,36 0 HIGH LOW SURVEY SPATIAL REPRESENTATION DISCUSSION Our research highlighted the relationship between way-finding and several cognitive, personality and metacognitive variables. In particular, we found that MR ability has an important role in both the first and second navigations. This result is important because it shows that a basic spatial ability is directly involved in way-finding. Another result regards the relationship between self-evaluation of sense of direction and navigation, which confirms that the metacognitive measure of one’s own sense of direction and the preference for survey spatial representation are related to way-finding. People judging themselves as having a good sense of direction and preferring a survey representation make less errors in the navigation trials, and this effect is significant in the second. A similar pattern emerged from the relation between spatial anxiety and navigation. Participants with a high level of spatial anxiety make more errors in the second attempt. Personality trait of reward dependence is important in affecting performance. However its relevance is limited to the first trial, where high reward dependents probably need more feed-back which can guide them. REFERENCES Cloninger CR.(1987). 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