We investigated the effect of different visual perspectives on the acquisition of spatial knowledge and on way-finding strategies. An experiment was carried out to test whether detour behaviour follows a simple general strategy, like the tendency to use right-angled paths. Alternatively, detour behaviour can depend on which perspective is used during knowledge acquisition. If the latter is true participants are expected to choose varying detours depending on the visual condition. After learning a route in a virtual environment, participants performed different tasks: they had to find a new way around a barricade, to point to the end of the path and to draw a map from the environment. The perspective was varied in three conditions: participants moved either in a field perspective with a viewpoint of a person that is within the scene or with a bird's eye (i.e. an observer) perspective. In the third condition, participants had to mentally transform their viewpoint from a field into an observer perspective. The results show that the visual conditions determine navigation behaviour. Strategies for making a detour differ between perspectives. In the field perspective condition, subjects prefer right angles at intersections to go back to the former route whereas subjects in the observer condition use oblique angled paths more frequently to return to the learned route. © 2001 Academic Press.
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