The effects of pathway configuration, landmarks and stress on environmental cognition

Gary W. Evans, Brian Bresolin, Kendall J. Bryant, Tommy Gärling & Mary Anne Skorpanich

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Evans, G. W. , Bresolin, B. , Bryant, K. J. , Gärling, T. & Skorpanich, M. A. (1). The effects of pathway configuration, landmarks and stress on environmental cognition. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 4(4), 323–335.

Environmental Changes , Environmental Cognition , Experimental Method , Landmarks , Pathway Configuration , Stress

The results of this study indicate that manipulations of the pathway grid configuration and landmark placement in a setting cause changes in environmental knowledge. These experimental manipulations were accomplished using a realistic, dynamic simulation technique at the Berkeley Environmental Simulation Laboratory. Measures of environmental knowledge include: memory for incidental information along the simulated urban route, accuracy of route maps, relocation memory for scenes along the route, and questionnaire measures. Data are also presented showing both positive and negative effects of stress from noise on the processes of environmental cognition.

Main finding
This study explores how differences in certain characteristics of a simulated urban landscape relate to users knowledge of the landscape. Participants more accurately recalled the path taken when the landscape was on a grid-based system, but the grid system helped little to improve memory on the location of specific landmarks. While most differences between different simulated landscapes did not result in differences in memory, some memory of landmarks improved in a "quiet" as opposed to "noisy" experimental condition.

Description of method used in the article
Participants (N = 128, average age: 20) were randomly assigned to one of eight experimental conditions wherein they viewed a four-minute video of a streetscape route at the equivalent of 20 mph. The video was constructed from a 1:16 scale model of an urban streetscape with differences between conditions related to (a) presence of landmarks and (b) a grid-based or non-grid-based street network. Randomly assigned conditions included (a) no landmarks/non-grid, (b) internal landmarks/non-grid, (c) external landmarks/non-grid, and (d) no landmarks/grid), with participants in either (a) quiet or (b) noisy conditions. Noise (sounds of vehicles, machinery, people speaking) is used as a proxy for “stress.” Participants viewed the color-filmed video simulation, then (a) completed incidental memory tasks, (b) drew a route map, (c) ordered and placed photos spatially, and (d) completed a demographic questionnaire. Analysis of the relationship between environmental features and memory were analyzed via 2x4 ANOVA with Scheffe post hoc tests.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

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Environmental Psychology
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