Walking improves your cognitive map in environments that are large-scale and large in extent

Roy A. Ruddle, Ekaterina Volkova, Heinrich H. BüLthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated the effect of body-based information (proprioception, etc.) when participants navigated large-scale virtual marketplaces that were either small (Experiment 1) or large in extent (Experiment 2). Extent refers to the size of an environment, whereas scale refers to whether people have to travel through an environment to see the detail necessary for navigation. Each participant was provided with full body-based information (walking through the virtual marketplaces in a large tracking hall or on an omnidirectional treadmill), just the translational component of body-based information (walking on a linear treadmill, but turning with a joystick), just the rotational component (physically turning but using a joystick to translate) or no body-based information (joysticks to translate and rotate). In large and small environments translational body-based information significantly improved the accuracy of participants' cognitive maps, measured using estimates of direction and relative straight line distance but, on its own, rotational body-based information had no effect. In environments of small extent, full body-based information also improved participants' navigational performance. The experiments show that locomotion devices such as linear treadmills would bring substantial benefits to virtual environment applications where large spaces are navigated, and theories of human navigation need to reconsider the contribution made by body-based information, and distinguish between environmental scale and extent.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jun


  • Cognitive map
  • Locomotion
  • Navigation
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction


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