Does mental simulation of following a path improve navigation performance without vision ?

Abstract : We recorded the paths of subjects who walked along a memorized hexagonal route without vision, and studied the impact of previous mental simulation of this activity on how well the path could be reproduced from memory. We compared two kinds of mental simulation to actual physical practice, rest, or simple memorization of the path. The results indicated that mental simulation led to better reproduction of the global shape of a path than rest, and in fact mental simulation was as effective as actual physical practice. However, this result occurred only for ‘simple shapes’ when the lengths of the sides of the path were kept constant. Nevertheless, this level of performance was not reached when the complexity of the shape was increased by altering the lengths of sides, even when keeping constant the angles between consecutive sides. This finding indicates that the internal representation of space depends on geometric properties of the environment in which the subjects operate. Mental simulation appears to affect both a map-like and route-like representation of the environment.
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Stéphane Vieilledent, Stephen Kosslyn, Alain Berthoz, Marie Giraudo. Does mental simulation of following a path improve navigation performance without vision ?. Cognitive Brain Research, Elsevier, 2003, 16 (2), pp.238-249. ⟨10.1016/S0926-6410(02)00279-3⟩. ⟨hal-01697352⟩

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