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Navigational Map Reading: Predicting Performance and Identifying Relative Influence of Map-Related Abilities

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Most of us know people who “cannot read a map” and others who seem to navigate intuitively. Such discrepancy in ability is puzzling, given that most people navigate to and between locations many times every day. In many cases the locations are those that are destinations we visit regularly (school, work, home, store), but people are also frequently faced with the task of navigating to a new location, whether it is a store not previously visited or a vacation destination. Why do such differences exist and can we identify some of the human traits or abilities that lead to such differences? This article presents results from empirical research designed to investigate these differences. Three research questions were asked: (1) Can a reliable and valid navigational map reading test instrument be designed? (2) To what extent does the instrument predict navigational map reading? and (3) What is the relative influence of individual map-related abilities on overall navigational map reading? A Navigational Map Reading Ability Test (NMRAT) was designed to measure five map-related abilities, and a Real World Map Navigation Exercise (RWMNE) was developed to assess the validity of the NMRAT. Forty-four subjects completed both the test and the exercise. Results demonstrate that, overall, the NMRAT is both reliable and valid as an indicator of navigational map reading ability. Results also show that the five map-related abilities exert different influence on the overall task of map navigation.

Keywords: abilities; map reading; navigation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Oregon

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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