Article

Exploring small city maps.

Department of Veterans Affairs, Brain Sciences Center, Minneapolis Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN, 55417, USA.
Experimental Brain Research (Impact Factor: 2.17). 09/2012; 223(2):207-17. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-012-3252-z
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The exploration of city maps has exploded recently due to the wide availability, increasing use of, and reliance on small positioning and navigational devices for personal use. In this study, subjects explored small, 3-mile diameter circular maps exemplifying five different types of street networks common in the United States, in order to locate a hypothetical city hall. Chosen locations indicated that subjects are able to identify more accessible sites. Monitoring eye position revealed that women explored maps faster, using more widely dispersed but more narrowly focused gaze clusters than men. The type of street network influenced the time spent by the eyes in a locale and differentially affected the size of gaze clusters between women and men, underscoring the complex interactions of gender-specific strategies with street network types.

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    ABSTRACT: We investigated the cognitive mechanisms underlying the exploration and decision-making in realistic and novel environments. Twelve human subjects were shown small circular U.S. city maps with two locations highlighted on the circumference, as possible choices for a post office ("targets"). At the beginning of a trial, subjects fixated a spot at the center of the map and ultimately chose one of the two locations. A space syntax analysis of the map paths (from the center to each target) revealed that the chosen location was associated with the less convoluted path, as if subjects navigated mentally the paths in an "ant's way," i.e., by staying within street boundaries, and ultimately choosing the target that could be reached from the center in the shortest way, and the fewest turns and intersections. The subjects' strategy for map exploration and decision making was investigated by monitoring eye position during the task. This revealed a restricted exploration of the map delimited by the location of the two alternative options and the center of the map. Specifically, subjects explored the areas around the two target options by repeatedly looking at them before deciding which one to choose, presumably implementing an evaluation and decision-making process. The ultimate selection of a specific target was significantly associated with the time spent exploring the area around that target. Finally, an analysis of the sequence of eye fixations revealed that subjects tended to look systematically toward the target ultimately chosen even from the beginning of the trial. This finding indicates an early cognitive selection bias for the ensuing decision process.
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