Overcoming navigational challenges: A novel approach to the study and assessment of topographical orientation

Alessia Bonavita, Alice Teghil, Maria Chiara Pesola, Cecilia Guariglia, Fabrizia D’Antonio, Antonella Di Vita, Maddalena Boccia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several studies investigating environmental navigation require participants to navigate in virtual environments, in which the proprioceptive and vestibular components present during real environmental navigation are lost. Here, we aimed to provide a novel computerized ecological navigational battery, investigating whether the absence of proprioceptive and vestibular inputs yields a representation of the navigational space comparable to that acquired ecologically. In Study 1, 38 participants underwent two sets of tasks, one performed in a laboratory-based setting (LBS) and the other in an ecological environment (EE), with both including evaluation of route, landmark, and survey knowledge and a landmark ordering task. All tasks, except the route task, significantly correlated between EE and LBS. In LBS, performance in the landmark ordering task was predicted by that in the survey task, but not by those in the route and landmark tasks. Results of Study 1 were replicated in Study 2, in which 44 participants completed a modified and shorter online version of LBS tests. Reliability of the online LBS tests was also tested and showed a moderate-to-high internal consistency. Overall, results show that the conditions in which tasks are performed affect the acquisition of route knowledge, likely due to the lack of proprioceptive and vestibular information in LBS. However, LBS tasks presented here provide a standard battery of tests that can overcome the replicability problems encountered by ecological navigation tests, while taking into consideration all the complexities of navigational processes in terms of the use of landmark, route, and survey strategies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Allocentric
  • Egocentric
  • Spatial navigation
  • Topographical orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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