Effects of practice on visuo-spatial attention in a wayfinding task

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Several studies have evaluated the distribution of visuo-spatial attention in a wayfinding task, using gaze direction as an indicator for the locus of attention. We extended that work by evaluating how visuo-spatial attention is modified by wayfinding practice. Young and older participants followed prescribed routes through a virtual city on six trials. Each trial was followed by a route recall test, where participants saw screenshots of intersections encountered, and had to indicate which way to proceed. Behavioral and gaze data were registered in those tests. Wayfinding accuracy increased from trial to trial, more so in young than in older persons. Total gaze time, mean fixation time, and the vertical scatter of fixations decreased from trial to trial, similarly in young and older persons. The horizontal scatter of fixations did not differ between trials and age groups. The incidence of fixations on the subsequently chosen side also did not differ between trials, but it increased in older age. We interpret these findings as evidence that as wayfinding practice increased, participants gradually narrowed their attentional focus to the most relevant screenshot area, processed information within this focus more efficiently, reduced the total time in which attention dwelled on the rejected side of the screenshot, but maintained the total time on the chosen side. These dynamic changes of visuo-spatial attention were comparable in young and older participants. However, it appears that decision-making differed between age groups: older persons’ attention dwelled longer on the chosen side before they made their choice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Research
Pages (from-to)2900-2910
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 20.01.2021

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© 2021. The Author(s).

ID: 5592992

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