Cultural background shapes spatial reference frame proclivity

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific Reports, 2015, 5
Issue Date:
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Spatial navigation is an essential human skill that is influenced by several factors. The present study investigates how gender, age, and cultural background account for differences in reference frame proclivity and performance in a virtual navigation task. Using an online navigation study, we recorded reaction times, error rates (confusion of turning axis), and reference frame proclivity (egocentric vs. allocentric reference frame) of 1823 participants. Reaction times significantly varied with gender and age, but were only marginally influenced by the cultural background of participants. Error rates were in line with these results and exhibited a significant influence of gender and culture, but not age. Participants cultural background significantly influenced reference frame selection; the majority of North-Americans preferred an allocentric strategy, while Latin-Americans preferred an egocentric navigation strategy. European and Asian groups were in between these two extremes. Neither the factor of age nor the factor of gender had a direct impact on participants navigation strategies. The strong effects of cultural background on navigation strategies without the influence of gender or age underlines the importance of socialized spatial cognitive processes and argues for socio-economic analysis in studies investigating human navigation.
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