Mental rotations and map use: cultural differences
Paper in proceedings, 2012
Earlier studies on Swedish participants using maps in different rotations (north-up, head-up and 3D-egocentric view) has shown that use of head-up and 3D egocentric maps in a maze experiment gives faster decision making and less errors that the traditional north-up oriented map. The assumption is that by removing the need of making cognitively demanding mental rotations, cognitive off-loading will be achieved. A remaining question is whether or not these results in some way would depend on cultural factors such as e.g. education or traditional use of maps.
In a new study done on 32 fourth-years Chinese master mariner cadets at Dalian Maritime University in China the earlier experiment were replicated. The results showed interesting differences: First, speed and accuracy of navigation with only landmarks without electronic position plotting where significantly lower for the Chinese participants, however in the condition with electronic position plotting the results where comparable and in the 3D condition equal to the Swedish test groups. Second, in the trade-off between speed and accuracy, the Chinese participants choose accuracy to a greater extent than did the Swedish participants.