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October 2021

A comparison of methods for estimating directions in egocentric space

Author(s): Richardson, A. E., Hegarty, M., Provenza, M.

Journal/Book: Perception. 1999; 28: 207 Brondesbury Park, London NW2 5Jn, England. Pion Ltd. 981-1000.

Abstract: A central issue for researchers of human spatial knowledge, whether focused on perceptually guided action or cognitive-map acquisition, is knowledge of egocentric directions, directions from the body to objects and places. Several methods exist for measuring this knowledge. We compared two particularly important methods, manual pointing with a dial and whole-body rotation (body heading), under various conditions of sensory or memory access to targets. In two experiments, blindfolded body rotation resulted in the greatest variability of performance (variable error), while the manual dial resulted in greater consistent bias (constant error). The variability of performance with body rotation was no greater than that of the dial when subjects' memory loads for directions to targets was reduced by allowing them to peek at targets in between trials, point to concurrent auditory targets, or point with their eyes open. In both experiments, errors with the manual dial were greater for directions to targets that were further from the closest orthogonal axis (ahead, behind, right, left), while errors with body rotation with restricted perceptual access were greater for directions to targets that were further from an axis straight ahead of subjects. This suggests that the two methods will produce evidence of different organizational frameworks for egocentric spatial knowledge. Implications for the structures and processes that underlie egocentric spatial knowledge, and are involved in estimating directions, are discussed, as is the value of decomposing absolute errors into variable and constant errors.

Note: Article Montello DR, Univ Calif Santa Barbara, Dept Geog, Santa Barbara,CA 93106 USA

Keyword(s): SPATIAL ORIENTATION; COGNITIVE MAPS; ABSOLUTE ERROR; KNOWLEDGE; VISION; NAVIGATION; DISGUISE; BLIND


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