Smart Phones and Wayfinding Ability (03-20-17)

Sanders has reviewed the research on the effects of smart phone based navigation tools on our ability to find our way through spaces without them, among other topics.  As she reports, “Instead of checking a map and planning a route before a trip, people can now rely on their smartphones to do the work for them. . . .  Our navigational skills may be at risk as we shift to neurologically easier ways to find our way, says cognitive neuroscientist Véronique Bohbot of McGill University in Montreal.  Historically, getting to the right destination required a person to have the lay of the land, a mental map of the terrain. That strategy takes more work than one that’s called a ‘response strategy,’ the type of navigating that starts with an electronic voice command. . . .  A response strategy is easier, but it leaves people with less knowledge. People who walked through a town in Japan with human guides did a better job later navigating the same route than people who had walked with GPS as a companion, researchers have found.”  Use of GPS-type apps to navigate through spaces may ultimately have implications for wayfinding signage/systems, inside and out.  More signage may need to be posted, for example, so it is available to assist visitors who used electronic systems to initially guide their travels through an area, but whose GPS-type navigation aids are unavailable temporarily.

Laura Sanders.  2017.  “Smartphones May Be Changing the Way We Think.”  Science News, vol. 191, no. 6, p. 18 OR