The Role of Goals and Attention on Memory for Distance in Real and Virtual Spaces

Angie Johnson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Navigating in an environment generally involves a goal. However, to date, little is known about the influence of goals on immediate memory for distance and time in ‘cognitive maps.’ The main aim of the thesis is to investigate the role goals play in memory for distance and time experienced during movement through a range of types of environment, and to begin to unpack the mechanisms at play. A secondary goal of the thesis is to examine the fidelity of virtual environments with respect to memory for distance and time. There has been a recent surge in the utilisation of Virtual Reality (VR) in research and practice. However, it remains unclear to what extent spatial behaviour in virtual environments captures the experience of Real Space. The environments tested in the thesis allow direct comparison of immediate memory for distance traversed and time spent in real human mazes versus VR versions of the same mazes. The first series of experiments tested the effects of goals varying in urgency and desirability on memory immediate memory for distance and time in real and virtual straight paths and paths with multiple turns. The results show reliable effects of goals on memory for distance and time. Moreover, the studies discount the influence of arousal and mood as an explanation for these effects, and suggest that goals may mediate attention to the environment. The second series of experiments investigated the role of attention in memory for distance and time in VR and in mentally simulated environments using verbal, visual, and auditory cues. The results of these studies show some evidence that attention in one’s environment influences memory for that environment. Overall, the results reveal that both goals and deployment of attention affect the representations people construct of their environments (cognitive maps) and subsequent recall. Implications are discussed more broadly with regard to research in spatial cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Coventry, Kenny, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Nov 2011

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