Spatial Information Theory

Volume 2205 of the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science pp 400-414


Grid Patterns and Cultural Expectations in Urban Wayfinding

  • Clare DaviesAffiliated withDept of Psychology, University of Surrey
  • , Eric PedersonAffiliated withDept of Linguistics, University of Oregon

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Much of the literature on human spatial cognition and language in large-scale environments has been based on ‘simplified’ grid-pattern layouts with orthogonal intersections and parallel paths/streets. However, these are not the prevailing urban structure in many countries. This field study considered the possibility that different cultural expectations for typical urban environments would affect even long-term residents’ mental models and behavior regarding urban wayfinding and locational knowledge. Residents of two grid-pattern cities, one in the UK, where such layouts are rare, and another one in the US, performed a battery of tasks including confidence ratings, sketch map drawing, verbal route directions, and pointing to non-visible landmarks. The results show that the UK group placed less emphasis on the central grid in their sketch maps, and showed a systematic error in their pointing direction. The results are discussed in the light of previous research on orientation biases. Further crosscultural analysis and studies are planned.


route directions mental maps cognitive mapping urban navigation cross-cultural psychology pointing tasks landmarks cardinal directions