Learning fine-grained and category information in navigable real-world space

David H. Uttal, Alinda Friedman, Linda Liu Hand, Christopher Warren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Spatial judgments are affected by both fine-grained and categorical knowledge. We investigated whether, and how, the two forms of knowledge are learned in real-world, navigable space, as well as the time course of learning each type of knowledge. Participants were Northwestern University undergraduates who estimated the locations of buildings and other landmarks on campus. The Northwestern campus is roughly divided into three regions whose borders are not easy to discern, either from a map or by navigation. Nevertheless, students often refer to these regions linguistically and use them when making housing decisions, choosing classes, and so forth. We found that knowledge of both the fine-grained configuration of locations and the regional distinctions increased with time. However, regional influences on judgments occurred later in students' time on campus. Consequently, computed distances across the nonexistent border between north and south campus locations became more biased with time. The results have implications for understanding how spatial representations develop in navigable environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1026-1040
Number of pages15
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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