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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Carol Lawton


Department of Psychology

University Affiliation

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne


Past research has found that men and women have different navigational strategies; women pay closer attention to landmarks and associated turns in reference to their body positions, while men use more global cues to form a perspective of the larger environment (Lawton, 1994, 1996). The current study aimed to further examine these differences in strategies using a virtual building which contained 10 common household objects (e.g. TV, lamp, etc.) that were randomly placed throughout the floor plan. In one condition, the hallways were painted with a progression of various colors, whereas, in the other condition, all hallways were colored gray. The study included 133 participants, 59 males and 74 females, who were randomly assigned to either the color or gray building. Participants were asked to find their way from the TV to the lamp for 10 trials in the learning phase and then asked to reverse their path on a successive trial, called the reversal trial. Navigation efficiency was based on the number of errors made. The results found that efficiency improved more dramatically in the color building than the gray for both genders as they progressed through the learning phase. During the reversal trial in the color building, women experienced a greater disruption in navigation than men. In the gray building, however, there was no significant difference in navigational disruption between men and women on the reversal trial. These results suggest that women used the colors as positional visual references to make right and left turns (e.g. turn right at the blue wall); therefore, when the route was reversed, this learning strategy was a hindrance. On the other hand, men might have used the colors to provide directional information, in addition to positional information; therefore, this strategy aided them in navigating the reversal trial.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Gender Differences in Wayfinding of a Virtual Building

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