Flight Experience and Mental Representations of Space

ABSTRACTObjective: This study investigated whether increased flight experience as a pilot was associated with improved small-scale spatial skills and the ability to form a cognitive map of a novel ground-based virtual environment.Background: Early-career civil aviation pilots have been shown to form more accurate cognitive maps of a novel virtual environment than nonpilots. We sought to extend this finding to determine whether cognitive map accuracy was also associated with pilot flight experience.Method: Pilots completed small-scale spatial ability tasks, including assessments of perspective taking and spatial working memory, and then traveled along 4 routes in a virtual environment. Subsequently, they completed 2 tests that assessed their memory for the layout of landmarks in the virtual environment.Results: Pilots with more flight experience did not have more accurate cognitive map representations of the environment than pilots with less flight experience; however, increased flying experience was associated with better performance on a perspective-taking test.Conclusion: Perspective taking has been proposed as central to navigation awareness during flight, and the data reported here suggest it improves with experience.


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  • Accession Number: 01696502
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 27 2019 9:40AM