Researchers Provide New Insights Into How People Navigate Through the World

June 2, 2017

The ability to assess surroundings and move through the world is a skill shared by many animals, including humans, yet the brain mechanisms that make it possible are poorly understood.

Now, in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have offered new insights into how people understand visual scenes and how they figure out which paths to take to navigate through them.

The research was conducted by Russell Epstein, a psychology professor, and postdoc Michael Bonner.

“I was interested in this question,” Bonner says, “because I was thinking about the basic, most fundamental things that humans and other animals use vision for, and it occurred to me that navigation is one of them.”

To investigate this, the researchers conducted two separate experiments. In the first experiment, they created a set of artificially rendered rooms with different arrangements of doorways through which people could exit. In the second experiment, the researchers used images of real-world scenes. In both experiments, the participants were asked to look at the scenes while performing simple visual tasks that had nothing to do with navigation.

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