Does spatial cognitive style affect how navigational strategy is planned?

Alessia Bocchi, Massimiliano Palmiero, Raffaella Nori, Paola Verde, Laura Piccardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People orient themselves in the environment using three different, hierarchically organized, spatial cognitive styles: landmark, route, and survey. Landmark style is based on a representation encompassing only visual information (terrain features); route style is based on a representation that connects landmarks and routes using an egocentric (body-centred) frame of reference; survey style is based on a global map-like representation that mainly involves an allocentric (world-centred) frame of reference. This study was aimed at investigating whether individual spatial cognitive style affected the way to plan a path when searching for a lost object. Participants with landmark, route, and survey style were assessed with an ecological navigational planning task (the Key Search Task), which required planning a strategy to search for the lost key in a hypothetical wide squared field. Results showed that spatial cognitive styles were associated to different navigational planning strategies, although the time to complete the Key Search Task was comparable across the styles. As revealed by the Key Search Task score, survey style individuals were the best navigational planners, route style individuals were less efficient and landmark style individuals were the least efficient. These results suggest that spatial cognitive style has effects on navigational planning. Implications for clinical settings, such as for developmental topographical disorientation, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Cognitive style
  • Individual factors
  • Planning
  • Spatial navigation
  • Strategy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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