Learning building layouts with non-geometric visual information: the effects of visual impairment and age

Perception. 2008;37(11):1677-99. doi: 10.1068/p5915.


Previous studies suggest that humans rely on geometric visual information (hallway structure) rather than non-geometric visual information (eg doors, signs, and lighting) for acquiring cognitive maps of novel indoor layouts. In this study we asked whether visual impairment and age affect reliance on non-geometric visual information for layout learning. We tested three groups of participants-younger (<50 years of age) normally sighted; older (50-70 years of age) normally sighted; and low-vision (people with heterogeneous forms of visual impairment ranging in age from 18 to 67 years). Participants learned target locations in building layouts using four presentation modes: a desktop virtual environment (VE) displaying only geometric cues (sparse VE); a VE displaying both geometric and non-geometric cues (photorealistic VE); a map; and a real building. Layout knowledge was assessed by map drawing and by asking participants to walk to specified targets in the real space. Results indicate that low-vision and older normally sighted participants relied on additional non-geometric information to accurately learn layouts. In conclusion, visual impairment and age may result in reduced perceptual and/or memory processing that makes it difficult to learn layouts without non-geometric visual information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Vision, Low / psychology*
  • Young Adult