Individual Differences in Spatial Representations and Wayfinding

AbstractNavigation is a well-specified computational problem, and solving it is vital for survival. Given these constraints, we might expect that humans differ minimally in their wayfinding capabilities. Indeed, a lack of variation is often implicitly assumed when cognitive scientists debate the existence of cognitive maps or when cognitive neuroscientists search for the neural substrates of navigation. However, in everyday life, we frequently discuss how some people get lost with some frequency, or how women ask for directions while men use maps. Indeed, it is increasingly apparent in the scientific data on navigation (and other cognitive domains) that the study of normative functioning needs to be integrated with the study of human variation, with its attendant challenges regarding experimental design and use of psychometrics. The four papers in this symposium gather together current work in cognitive science and neuroscience that aim to integrate the study of variation into the more common normative approach.

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