Spatial Cognition, Wayfinding, Mental Maps, Spatial Ability, Virtual Environments


This research examined the processes involved when one is acquiring spatial knowledge while traversing an environment, integrating that knowledge into mental representations, and subsequently relying on that knowledge to successfully perform wayfinding. Particularly, the conducted studies aimed to provide evidence reflecting on two ongoing debates: the distinctions between types of knowledge embedded in mental maps, and the unconfirmed sequential or simultaneous nature of the acquisition and integration of those types. The experiments reported in this manuscript addressed drawbacks in existing research by manipulating opportunities for the acquisition of point and route knowledge (two of the potentially distinct knowledge types), and by testing participants' capacity to integrate their acquired knowledge in the context of environmental affordances. Participants in the conducted studies underwent environmental training exposures targeted at providing a) primarily point knowledge or b) route knowledge acquisition, and they also completed a set of knowledge measures tapping point, route, and configuration knowledge. Finally, participants completed tests of wayfinding capacity to demonstrate their ability to rely on integrated mental maps for successful wayfinding. Results of the two conducted studies provided substantial evidence that there are distinct types of knowledge that may be acquired and quantifiably measured, and that spatial knowledge can be acquired in parallel, not necessarily in sequence, across knowledge types. Critically, some knowledge types may also develop in exclusion to others especially for individuals with particular spatial abilities and predispositions. Accordingly, it is likely that previous research indicating sequential spatial knowledge development may be reflecting differential acquisition as a combination of population capabilities and knowledge measurement research methodologies. Finally, the results demonstrate that individual differences, training modalities, and environment iv features have complex, interacting effects on spatial cognition and that no one factor predominantly determines individuals' ability to acquire, integrate, or employ spatial knowledge.

Completion Date




Committee Chair

Jentsch, Florian


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology








Release Date

December 2024

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)

Campus Location

Orlando (Main) Campus

Restricted to the UCF community until December 2024; it will then be open access.