Cognitive load of navigating without vision when guided by virtual sound versus spatial language.

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Abstract or Description

A vibrotactile N-back task was used to generate cognitive load while participants were guided along virtual paths without vision. As participants stepped in place, they moved along a virtual path of linear segments. Information was provided en route about the direction of the next turning point, by spatial language ("left," "right," or "straight") or virtual sound (i.e., the perceived azimuth of the sound indicated the target direction). The authors hypothesized that virtual sound, being processed at direct perceptual levels, would have lower load than even simple language commands, which require cognitive mediation. As predicted, whereas the guidance modes did not differ significantly in the no-load condition, participants showed shorter distance traveled and less time to complete a path when performing the N-back task while navigating with virtual sound as guidance. Virtual sound also produced better N-back performance than spatial language. By indicating the superiority of virtual sound for guidance when cognitive load is present, as is characteristic of everyday navigation, these results have implications for guidance systems for the visually impaired and others.




Published In

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 12, 4, 223-232.