The Role of Working Memory in Direction Giving and Wayfinding
An important task in our everyday lives is finding our way around and helping others find their way. To do these tasks, we must rely on working memory, which is necessary when holding onto information while performing other tasks. We used Baddeley and Hitch’s model to conceptualize four aspects of working memory. The first aspect is the central executive, which is the main processing unit of working memory. Second, the visuospatial sketch stores visual semantics like visual and spatial details, and third, the phonological loop stores verbal information such as language. The last aspect is the episodic buffer, which is responsible for holding onto multidimensional chunks of information (Baddeley, 2009). Past research has linked working memory and wayfinding. For example, indoor wayfinding directions were less accurate when visuospatial working memory was being taxed by a secondary task. Indoor wayfinding times were also found to be slower when visuospatial memory was being taxed (Hund, 2016). The present study investigated the role of working memory in direction giving and wayfinding in an outdoor environment. The sample consisted of 257 participants recruited from Illinois State University. We tested the role of working memory in direction giving and wayfinding through a dual-task paradigm. The dual tasks included being able to tell if a word was a real English word or not (taxing verbal working memory) or making decisions about times on an analog clock (taxing visuospatial working memory) while simultaneously giving directions or finding the best route to a specific destination on the university quad, compared to simply giving directions or wayfinding. Preliminary analyses supported our hypotheses. That is, participants made more errors in direction giving when working memory was being taxed during dual-tasks. They also were slower during wayfinding. These findings provide important details about the role of verbal and visuospatial working memory in wayfinding and direction giving.
Roberts, Darin, "The Role of Working Memory in Direction Giving and Wayfinding" (2020). Psychology. 33.