Individual Differences in Orienting and Navigating Tasks when Using North-Up and Track-Up Electronic Maps

Recent advances in information technology have led to the extensive use of electronic maps in navigation tasks. An important question is how to present information about locations and directions to facilitate navigation tasks performed by different users. Extensive studies in the literature have investigated the effect of the frame of reference (i.e., North-Up and Track-Up Electronic Maps) on navigation performance but found disparate results regarding the best type of maps to optimize performance (Aretz & Wickens, 1992; Cuevas, Huthman, Knudsen, and Wei, 2001). The field dependence-independence (FDI), as one of the cognitive styles, has been found to affect an individual’s way of orienting in virtual environments but not their performance in orienting tasks (Kroutter, 2010). However, few studies have been carried out to research how users’ cognitive styles interacted with map characteristics, which in turn influenced their navigation performance. The current work investigated the effect of individual’s field dependence-independence and map’s frame of reference on user performance in orienting and navigating tasks using 2D electronic maps. The Experiments 1 indicated that field-dependent (FD) individuals showed significantly higher accuracy in orienting tasks when using the track-up maps than when using the north-up maps, whereas field-independent (FI) individuals had no difference when using either type of maps. The current study may imply that FD individuals showed worse performance than field-independent individuals when using north-up maps because an additional step of mental rotation was included when making direction judgments with north-up maps and FD individuals were more likely influenced by the external cues in mental rotations. Since track-up maps matched with the direction of travel, the mental rotation was not necessary, so that FD and FI individuals showed no significant difference in such direction judgment tasks. Experiment 2 examined the effects of field dependence and frame of reference on navigation task performance in the virtual environment. Results showed that FI individuals had better performance than FD individuals regarding the number of map references. The results also showed an interaction effect of field dependence and frame of reference on task completion time. In particular, FI individuals showed a significantly quicker time to complete the navigation task than FD individuals when using north-up maps, whereas they showed no difference in task completion time when using track-up maps. Although track-up maps led to the superior performance for FD individuals, the subjective rating of track-up maps was lower than that of north-up maps. In summary, previous empirical studies have failed to find clear evidence to support either North-up or Track-up designs. The current study proposed one possible implication of such inconsistent findings: that a user’s field dependence/ independence dimension in spatial cognition influences their performance when using different frames of reference. The mental rotation cost using a north-up display can be reduced for field-independent individuals since such users showed better performance in extracting and integrating information to maintain their mental representation of the system. This implication could be further utilized in the user-centered designs of navigation displays by considering individual differences.


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  • Accession Number: 01728309
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 24 2019 3:59PM