Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Dr. Jennifer E. Sutton


There are large individual differences in the ability to create an accurate mental representation (i.e., a cognitive map) of a novel environment, yet the factors underlying cognitive map accuracy remain unclear. Given the roles that landmarks and cognitive map accuracy play in successful navigation, the current study examined whether differences in the landmarks that individuals look at while navigating are related to differences in cognitive map accuracy. Participants completed a battery of spatial tests: some that assessed spatial skills prior to a navigation task, and others that tested memory for the environment following exploration of a virtual world. Results indicated that individuals with inaccurate maps had weak perspective-taking abilities, struggled to create shortcuts, and remembered fewer landmarks despite having looked at target buildings and objects in the environment for the same duration as individuals with accurate cognitive maps. These findings suggest that memory capabilities underlie differences in cognitive map accuracy.