Spatial survey estimation is incremental and relies on directed memory structures

Tobias Meilinger, Marianne Strickrodt, Heinrich H. Bülthoff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined how navigators of large-scale environmental spaces come up with survey estimates of distant targets. Participants learned a route through a virtual city by walking it multiple times in one direction on an omnidirectional treadmill. After learning, they were teleported to intersections along the route and pointed to multiple other locations. Locations were always queried in chunks of related trials relative to a participant’s current position, either to all locations route forwards or all locations route backwards. For their first pointing, participants took twice as long as for the later pointings and latency correlated with the number of intersections to the target, which was not the case for later pointings. These findings are inconsistent with reading out coordinates from a cognitive map but fit well with constructive theories which suggest that participants integrated locations between their current location and the target along the learned path. Later pointings to adjacent intersections within a chunk of trials continued this process using the previous estimation. Additionally, in first pointings participants’ estimates were quicker and more accurate when targets were located route forwards than route backwards. This route direction effect shows that the long-term memory employed in generating survey estimates must be directed – either in form of a directed graph or a combination of a directed route layer and an undirected survey layer.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpatial Cognition XI - 11th International Conference, Spatial Cognition 2018, Proceedings
EditorsAlexander Klippel, Sarah Creem-Regehr, Johannes Schöning
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9783319963846
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event11th International Conference on Spatial Cognition, 2018 - Tubingen, Germany
Duration: 2018 Sept 52018 Sept 8

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume11034 LNAI
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Other11th International Conference on Spatial Cognition, 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments. This research was supported by the DFG grant ME 3476/2-1. We thank Jan Souman for help in planning the experiment and discussing the results, Nadine Simon for help in data collection, as well as Joachim Tesch, Michael Kerger, and Harald Teufel for intensive technical support.

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018.


  • Cognitive map
  • Environmental space
  • Mental model
  • Mental walk
  • Spatial memory
  • Survey knowledge
  • Virtual environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • General Computer Science


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