Different strategies for spatial updating in yaw and pitch path integration
Frontiers Media SA -- Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
DOI 10.3389/fnbeh.2013.00005
  1. spatial navigation
  2. reference frames
  3. path integration
  4. gender differences
  5. navigational strategies

Research in spatial navigation revealed the existence of discrete strategies defined by the use of distinct reference frames during virtual path integration. The present study investigated the distribution of these navigation strategies as a function of gender, video gaming experience, and self-estimates of spatial navigation abilities in a population of 300 subjects. Participants watched videos of virtual passages through a star-field with one turn in either the horizontal (yaw) or the vertical (pitch) axis. At the end of a passage they selected one out of four homing arrows to indicate the initial starting location. To solve the task, participants could employ two discrete strategies, navigating within either an egocentric or an allocentric reference frame. The majority of valid subjects (232/260) consistently used the same strategy in more than 75% of all trials. With that approach 33.1% of all participants were classified as Turners (using an egocentric reference frame on both axes) and 46.5% as Non-turners (using an allocentric reference frame on both axes). 9.2% of all participants consistently used an egocentric reference frame in the yaw plane but an allocentric reference frame in the pitch plane (Switcher). Investigating the influence of gender on navigation strategies revealed that females predominantly used the Non-turner strategy while males used both the Turner and the Non-turner strategy with comparable probabilities. Other than expected, video gaming experience did not influence strategy use. Based on a strong quantitative basis with the sample size about an order of magnitude larger than in typical psychophysical studies these results demonstrate that most people reliably use one out of three possible navigation strategies (Turners, Non-turners, Switchers) for spatial updating and provides a sound estimate of how those strategies are distributed within the general population.