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Elyssa Twedt, Tom Banton, E. Blair Gross, Jonathan R. Zadra, Dennis Proffitt; The role of decision-making in learning spatial layout: A real-world application. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):933. doi: 10.1167/11.11.933.
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Making decisions about how to navigate through an environment promotes better learning of the layout than does passive exploration (e.g., Bakdash, 2010). We sought to apply this finding to a real-world problem in which decision-making is limited: Infantrymen in the U.S. Army often have trouble learning the layout of a destination because they are transported in vehicles without windows. Equipping these vehicles with cameras will provide infantrymen with a view of the outside environment, which will certainly improve spatial knowledge. However, giving infantrymen control of a camera view may improve spatial knowledge further by letting them decide where to look during navigation. On a computer desktop, participants viewed an outdoor virtual environment from the inside of a simulated enclosed stationary vehicle. They were instructed to learn the details of the environment by rotating the camera and moving it up and down. Participants were tested in pairs, one of whom had active control of the camera and made decisions about where to look, while the other passively watched the output generated by the first participant. After 3 minutes, participants' spatial knowledge was assessed via their ability to recognize targets, point to target locations, and create a map of relative target locations. In an effort to match the circumstances of this problem, participants were not given prior information about the targets and were given a limited amount of time to explore the environment. This contrasts with previous laboratory-controlled studies, in which participants had prior knowledge of the targets and extensive time to explore. Having camera control improved target recognition, but contrary to our hypothesis, control did not improve target localization or map construction. These results highlight the difficulties and importance of applying scientific findings to more complicated real-world scenarios.
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