Spatial orientation and directional judgments in pilots vs. nonpilots

Paola Verde, Gregorio Angelino, Francesco Piccolo, Paolo Carrozzo, Alessia Bottiglieri, Laura Lugli, Laura Piccardi, Raff aella Nori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Reading a map requires the ability to judge one ' s position in a large-scale space from information presented in a small-scale representation. Individuals are more accurate and faster in making judgments when the " up " direction on the map is the same as the " forward " direction of the environment, which is when a map is aligned with the perspective of the spatial layout they have learned (alignment eff ect). The aim of this study was to explore whether military pilots, who have high spatial abilities, would not show the alignment eff ect compared with nonpilots. METHODS: Recruited were 20 military pilots and 20 nonpilots. Mean fl ight hours were 418.75. Nonpilots without fl ight experience were matched for age and education with pilots. Subjects were asked to learn a map and to perform directional judgments to verify whether the alignment eff ect was present considering absolute angular errors. RESULTS: An ANOVA for mixed designs on absolute angular errors revealed a main " group " eff ect: pilots performed better than nonpilots (pilots: M = 22.60 ± 5.57; nonpilots: M = 82.59 ± 5.56). A main " directional judgments " eff ect was also observed: aligned judgements were easier than contra-aligned judgements (aligned, M = 9.277 ± 0.938; contraaligned, M = 11.004 ± 0.805). ANOVA showed a signifi cant " group 3 directional judgments " interaction: post hoc comparison showed that contra-aligned were more diffi cult than aligned judgments for nonpilots. DISCUSSION: High visuo-spatial abilities preserved pilots from having alignment eff ect bias. They performed directional judgments equally well, being less infl uenced by the increased cognitive eff ort requested by the changing perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-862
Number of pages6
JournalAerospace medicine and human performance
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Directional judgements
  • Flight safety
  • Navigational skills
  • Pilots
  • Spatial orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial orientation and directional judgments in pilots vs. nonpilots'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this