Electrocortical Evidence for Long-Term Incidental Spatial Learning Through Modified Navigation Instructions

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The use of Navigation Assistance Systems for spatial orienting has become increasingly popular. Such automated navigation support, however, comes with a reduced processing of the surrounding environment and often with a decline of spatial orienting ability. To prevent such deskilling and to support spatial learning, the present study investigated incidental spatial learning by comparing standard navigation instructions with two modified navigation instruction conditions. The first modified instruction condition highlighted landmarks and provided additional redundant information regarding the landmark (contrast condition), while the second highlighted landmarks and included personal relevant information regarding the landmark (personal-reference condition). Participants' spatial knowledge of the previously unknown virtual city was tested three weeks later. Behavioral and electroencephalographic (EEG) data demonstrated enhanced memory performance for participants in the modified navigation instruction conditions without further differentiating between modified instructions. Recognition performance of landmarks was better and the late positive complex of the event-related potential (ERP) revealed amplitude differences reflecting an increased amount of recollected information for modified navigation instructions. The results indicate a significant long-term spatial learning effect when landmarks are highlighted during navigation instructions.
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