October 01, 2018

Spatial Knowledge, the Environment, and Individual Differences in Navigation Ability

Elizabeth Chrastil, University of California, Santa Barbara

Orienting oneself in novel environments, as well as finding and remembering the locations of resources, is critical for human and animal existence. Despite the importance of this skill, getting around is easy for some people, while others struggle. Working at the interface between immersive virtual reality and neuroimaging techniques, my research demonstrates how these complementary approaches can inform questions about how we acquire and use spatial knowledge. In this talk, I will share emerging research about the relationship between humans and the environment during navigation, centering on three main themes: 1) how we learn new environments, 2) the type of spatial information we learn from environments, and 3) how individuals differ in their spatial abilities, including sex differences. This talk will integrate these behavioral and neuroimaging studies with an understanding of how the environment shapes our navigational abilities to inform new frameworks of spatial knowledge.