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Title: Strategies of human spatial cognition : cognitive and behavioural trade-offs
Author: Makány, Tamás
ISNI:       0000 0004 2674 4550
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2009
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Human spatial strategies are heuristics that allocate cognitive and behavioural resources for navigation tasks. These spatial strategies help the individual optimize its interactions with the surrounding space through functional trade-offs between the memory costs of planning routes and the cost involved in actually travelling that distance. These trade-offs result in visitation patterns of initial exploration of the space and subsequently determine navigation efficiency. The purpose of this thesis was to observe, identify and describe patterns of spatial exploration, understand the trade-offs and strategy optimizations they encompass and empirically quantify their performance both in physical and abstract (i.e., virtual, computational model and informational) spaces. The first study presented a novel methodology of identifying spatial exploration patterns based on cluster analyses in a physical room and measured navigation efficiencies according to a spatial strategy trade-off between memory demands and distances travelled. Two exploration patterns were found that determined subsequent navigation. Explorers with an ‘axial’ pattern were more memory efficient and followed a fixed route sequence to find objects; whereas ‘circular’ pattern explorers were more distance efficient with less overall travel on more flexible route choices. The following two studies used the same experimental design and methodology to further examine the effect of spatial constraints on cognitive and behavioural resource optimization, specifically looking at the issues of exploration on forced routes in a physical space and in an effortless virtual space. In both spaces, the efficiency trade-off observed in the first study was affected. On the one hand, forced physical exploration reduced navigational control and overwrote individually preferred spatial strategy optimizations. On the other hand, effortless virtual exploration resulted in preference towards optimization of cognitive resources over distances travelled. These presented examples of spatial environmental biases. Following the three behavioural studies, an agent-based model is presented. It formalized the main hypothesis of this thesis that human spatial cognition is optimized by spatial strategies via simulating exploration patterns with memory and distance heuristics. The model also replicated the behavioural findings and allowed further insights into the trade-off observed in the first study. The lessons learnt from the model and the three behavioural studies were then tested in a practical e-learning environment. The application of the theoretical findings provides further understanding into human spatial cognition. In the study, three different spatial layout website designs were analysed for their navigational and learning utilities both immediately and 2-weeks post exploration. This web based navigational study revealed the role of spatial control in long-term retention and other cognitive benefits. Together these studies present important insights to human spatial cognition and its implications.
Supervisor: Redhead, Edward ; Dror, Itiel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology