Route learning in virtual environments: Strategies in route learning

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Emily Farran, Jo Van Herwegen (Kingston University) and Susie Formby completed an exciting project looking at eye movements in route learning in Williams syndrome (WS). We were interested in how people navigate their way between different places. This skill enables people to learn a route from home to school, re-orientate when lost and to give directions. Landmarks provide crucial information for route learning, they enable us to find our way from A to B by acting as beacons (a tall tree) or reference points (a post box). The ability to learn routes and use landmarks to navigate is an essential skill for independent living.

Our study used a Virtual Environment (VE) to present computer mazes and eye tracking to investigate landmark use during the learning process. Past research has investigated landmark use by measuring recall of landmarks after participants have learnt a route. Our research was the first to combine route learning and eye tracking, which enabled measurement of attention to landmarks during route learning. In typical development (TD), determining which landmarks are relevant and use of landmarks when navigating develops with chronological age (CA). 


Lab members



Farran, E.K., Formby, S., Daniyal. F., Holmes. T., Van Herwegen, J. (2016). Route-learning strategies in typical and atypical development; eye tracking reveals atypical landmark selection in Williams syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability, 60, 933-944. doi: 10.1111/jir.12331

Research groups and centres

Our research is supported by research groups and centres of excellence.

Cognition, Genes and Developmental Variability Lab