Kelly, D. M. and Bischof, W. F. (2008). Orienting in virtual environments: How are surface features and environmental geometry weighted in an orientation task? Cognition, 109, 89-104.

We investigated how human adults orient in enclosed virtual environments, when discrete landmark information is not available and participants have to rely on geometric and featural information on the environmental surfaces. In contrast to earlier studies, where, for women, the featural information from discrete landmarks overshadowed the encoding of the geometric information, Experiment 1 showed that when featural information is conjoined with the environmental surfaces, men and women encoded both types of information. Experiment 2 showed that, although both types of information are encoded, performance in locating a goal position is better if it is close to a geometrically or featurally distinct location. Furthermore, although features are relied upon more strongly than geometry, initial experience with an environment influences the relative weighting of featural and geometric cues. Taken together, these results show that human adults use a flexible strategy for encoding spatial information.

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