The impact of a wayfinder's goal on learning a new environment: Different types of spatial knowledge as goals


This study investigated whether spatial learning is constrained by stage-based processes or by goal-directed activity by having subjects in different groups attend to different types of spatial information during learning. Before viewing a series of slides depicting a walk through a small town, subjects were given instructions that emphasized: (a) landmarks, (b) routes, (c) configurations, or (d) no specific spatial instructions. Following acquisition, the subjects were assessed for their landmark, route, and configuration knowledge of the environment using four tasks: a landmark recognition task, a route-sequencing task, a spatial orientation task, and a direction-giving task. No differences in performance attributable to instruction condition occurred for either the landmark recognition or route-sequencing tasks. On the orientation task, subjects given configuration instructions outperformed those receiving landmark instructions. In addition, differences were found in the direction-giving protocols both in terms of the quantity and the quality of landmark, route, and configuration information. In general, all subjects provided landmark information; subjects given route or configuration instructions provided more route and configuration information. These findings suggest that wayfinders are capable of learning a new environment according to a goal, but that learning is constrained by stage-based processes. © 1995.

Publication Title

Journal of Environmental Psychology