The Role of Landmarks

Published 15 Feb 2017

Experimental research designs are used for controlled testing of casual process; mostly used in social sciences including sociology and psychology. One of most important requirements of experimental research is the necessity of eliminating the direct intervention from the research and impasse is paid on creating an environment where participants take part in a controlled environment to prove cause and effect.

This article is written about “Wayfinding Behavior and Spatial Knowledge of Adults and Children in a Virtual Environment” written by Petra Jansen-Osmann and Petra Fuchs. The study investigated the effect of different organizations of landmark location pairings as fine-space information on way finding behaviour. The research design was experimental with 90 participations, 30-second graders and 30 6th graders and 30 adults. All the participants have to find their way to a goal in virtual environment with randomized and categorical landmarks. After which they have to find the shortest way from start to end positions in two conservative trials by solving a number of knowledge based tasks.


The experiment was conducted in virtual world using the 3D Software Game Studio A5. The virtual maze was designed with six main routes (as shown in the figure below)

The inner section of the virtual maze was formed by four hexagons located inside the rooms. All landmarks were comparable with respect to coloring and brightness. Within the experimental design, the assignment of a specific landmark category was confounded with a special way finding decisions; which was projected on a 17-inch flat screen monitor.


Each individual test session lasted for about 30 to 60 minutes inside a laboratory at Heinrich-Heine-University. Initially the computer utilization behaviour was registered. The children and adults were asked about the use of computer game (per week) especially with reference to maze finding games. Then all the participants were given opportunity to practice joystick and navigating through maze to have learning experience .

There were basically three experimental phases; exploratory, way finding and spatial finding phases. During the exploratory phase; the participant received instructions to explore the unknown virtual environment. In the way finding phase the participants were asked to solve several tasks in the same virtual environment. During the spatial phase, spatial knowledge was retrieved by direction estimation task with two main tasks; detour tasks and map tasks.


Gender Differences

The gender differences were not the main focus of this study; however differences have been found between the male and female. The gender difference were found in the linear distance measure of the map task, F(1, 72)4.74, p .05, whereby males (x¯ 36.96, SESE 6.34) outperformed females (x¯ 44.0, SESE7.5). There were also additional differences; such as factor age group and sex and type of maze for the recall of landmarks adjacent to correct turn; however such interaction did not reveal any systematic pattern difference among male and female.

Computer Experience

A uni-variate analysis of variance showed a great difference in computer experience (hours per week) for the factor age group. However there was no correlation found among the participants with computer experience and no-experience.

Finding and Conclusion

The experiment has investigated the role of landmark locations and space finding in virtual space. The study confirmed that with a control group learning the school age children are able to use fine space information in the same manner as adults. It also showed that the way finding process is not dependent on the existence of landmarks instead it functions in semantic category. The experiment also showed that people use variety of methods to solve way-finding process in the environmental space. This orientation behaviour also proved that individuals have various ways finding strategies that differ from individual to individual. For example the second graders showed little achievement compared to adults even though the process is same for both adults and children. The reason for such difference seems the level of experience which adult have and children don’t have.


Petra Jansen-Osmann and Petra Fuchs, (2006).Wayfinding Behavior and Spatial Knowledge of Adults and Children in a Virtual Environment, The Role of Landmarks. Experimental Psychology . 53(3)

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