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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Map reading under load : sex differences in learning digital maps Ho, Simon

Abstract

Imagine the following scenario: you’re at an unfamiliar location and you need to catch the bus to get home, however, you don’t know where the bus stop is. What do you do? In the modern world, the typical solution would be to open a map application on your smartphone and use it to determine the best route to your destination. Software developers are constantly improving mapping software with new features and design overhauls, but it is important to take a step back and ask how these factors might affect our ability to learn the information being presented. Are there cognitive factors that may help, or hinder, our ability to learn digital maps? A map reading experiment was devised to test the effect of cognitive load on map learning (Experiment 1). Participants learnt routes and landmarks under both low and high cognitive load. Our results show that high cognitive load hinders males’ ability to learn landmarks, while it hinders females’ ability to learn routes. A second experiment was conducted to determine the robustness of this effect. Map task difficulty was increased and our results show that the original 3-way interaction disappears when the demand on working memory becomes too high. Overall, our findings are in line with the existing literature on sex differences in map reading, and also indicates that 1) cognitive load plays a role in that relationship, and 2) a threshold exists for the effect once task difficulty is increased.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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