Variations in cognitive maps: Understanding individual differences in navigation

Steven M. Weisberg*, Victor R. Schinazi, Nora S. Newcombe, Thomas F. Shipley, Russell A. Epstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

184 Citations (Scopus)
335 Downloads (Pure)


There are marked individual differences in the formation of cognitive maps both in the real world and in virtual environments (VE; e.g., Blajenkova, Motes, & Kozhevnikov, 2005; Chai & Jacobs, 2010; Ishikawa & Montello, 2006; Wen, Ishikawa, & Sato, 2011). These differences, however, are poorly understood and can be difficult to assess except by self-report methods. VEs offer an opportunity to collect objective data in environments that can be controlled and standardized. In this study, we designed a VE consisting of buildings arrayed along 2 separated routes, allowing for differentiation of between-route and within-route representation. Performance on a pointing task and a model-building task correlated with self-reported navigation ability. However, for participants with lower levels of between-route pointing, the Santa Barbara Sense of Direction scale (Hegarty, Richardson, Montello, Lovelace, & Subbiah, 2002) did not predict individual differences in accuracy when pointing to buildings within the same route. Thus, we confirm the existence of individual differences in the ability to construct a cognitive map of an environment, identify both the strengths and the potential weaknesses of self-report measures, and isolate a dimension that may help to characterize individual differences more completely. The VE designed for this study provides an objective behavioral measure of navigation ability that can be widely used as a research tool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-682
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Variations in cognitive maps: Understanding individual differences in navigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this