Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Kevin Bennett (Committee Member), Herbert Colle (Advisor), Valerie Shalin (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Current in-car navigation systems do not refer to environmental landmarks when providing directions to drivers. Instead, they provide guidance by presenting drivers with distance-to-turn information. Default displays use track-up map orientations. These display conditions do not facilitate the acquisition of spatial knowledge. As a consequence, drivers using these systems are unlikely to acquire spatial knowledge needed to judge the reasonableness of the directions they are receiving, leaving them susceptible to accepting directions that are grossly incorrect and dangerous (Forbes and Burnett, 2007). Landmarks have been shown to be critical sources of information when people acquire both route and configural spatial knowledge. By providing landmark information, route and configural knowledge acquisition could potentially be enhanced. Two experiments compared the use of specific landmarks versus generic landmarks. Measures of both configural and route knowledge were obtained. Landmarks were presented either generically or specifically in voice directions or as visual icons on the display. Both Hunt's distinctiveness theory (1993, 2003) and Paivio's dual-coding theory (1973, 2006) indicate that participants hearing specific voice directions while simultaneously viewing specific visual icons would perform better than those experiencing the other combinations. The two experiments produced conflicting results. Experiment 1 found large effects of both landmark specificity and map orientation. Participants acquired better configural spatial knowledge with specific than generic visual icons. Also, north-up maps led to better configural spatial knowledge than track-up maps. Experiment 2, which modified the procedure somewhat, found no reliable differences.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Psychology

Year Degree Awarded