September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
Effects of degraded vision on the use of landmarks in spatial learning
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Holly C Gagnon
    Psychology, University of Utah
  • Erica M. Barhorst-Cates
    Psychology, University of Utah
  • Sarah H. Creem-Regehr
    Psychology, University of Utah
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 180a. doi:
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      Holly C Gagnon, Erica M. Barhorst-Cates, Sarah H. Creem-Regehr; Effects of degraded vision on the use of landmarks in spatial learning. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):180a.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Previous research indicates that landmarks aid in spatial learning and navigation. What is not known is how the degree to which landmarks are detectable or recognizable influences their usefulness in spatial cognition. This is especially relevant to those with low vision, who may rely on residual visual capabilities to accomplish daily goals. In the present study, participants (n = 16) were guided through four paths in a real-world maze wearing goggles that simulated degraded visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. For each participant, three landmarks (furniture items) were present at distances that were previously determined to allow for recognizability, in some paths but not others. Participants were instructed to attend to four targets in the maze (capital letters), but they were not told about the landmarks. At the end of each path participants completed a pointing task measuring their memory for target locations. Upon completion of the study participants were asked to indicate whether they saw any other objects in the maze besides the targets. If they did see other objects, they were asked to name them. Preliminary results show that the presence of landmarks tended to result in smaller pointing error, even when participants did not report seeing any landmarks. Thus, the mere presence of a landmark, even if it is not overtly detected, may be enough to aid in spatial learning while navigating. These results have implications for the low vision community, suggesting that landmarks may not need to be fully recognized in order to be useful in spatial learning. The results also suggest a gender by landmark presence interaction, indicating that males might receive more benefit from landmarks compared to females. Additional studies using more severe simulated blur level and manipulating explicit instructions about landmarks are currently underway.

Acknowledgement: NIH/NEI BRP 2 R01 EY017835-06A1 

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