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A spatial cognition framework for understanding wayfinding in buildings

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

  • Laura Carlson
  • Christoph Hoelscher
  • Thomas Shipley
  • Ruth Dalton
Publication date25/05/2011
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventEDRAMOVE, the Environmental Design Research Association - Chicago, United States
Duration: 25/05/201125/05/2011


ConferenceEDRAMOVE, the Environmental Design Research Association
Country/TerritoryUnited States


People often get lost in buildings, including but not limited to libraries, hospitals, conference centers, and shopping malls. In this talk we present an integrative framework derived from established research in spatial cognition that encompasses and inter-relates three factors that contribute to wayfinding difficulties. First, previous research using space syntax analysis has shown that the spatial structure of the building significantly impacts wayfinding, with correlations between intelligibility scores and ease of wayfinding. Second, there are systematic distortions in the cognitive maps that users construct for explored environments, with some elements preferentially encoded (such as objects at decision points) and some locations regularized (such as representing a hallway with two segments that involve a small change in direction as being straight). Third, there are distinct strategies that users adopt when navigating in a building, such as learning the route from an egocentric or allocentric perspective. These strategies are also likely impacted by individual characteristics of the users, such as their spatial ability and working memory capacity. A key feature of our integrative framework is to focus on the intersections of these factors. These include the correspondence between the building and the cognitive map, the completeness of the cognitive map as a function of the strategies and individual abilities of the users, and the compatibility between the building and the strategies and individual abilities of the users. In turn these all combine to predict an index of complexity that predicts wayfinding performance in a given building.