Age-related changes in a human cognitive mapping system: Data from a computer-generated environment

Kevin G.F. Thomas, Holly E. Laurance, Susan E. Luczak, W. Jake Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Two studies investigated age-related changes in human spatial cognition. In Study 1, younger and older adults searched computer-generated space, over several trials, for the location of a hidden target. Younger adults, but not older adults, quickly located the target and consistently returned to it. All the younger adults, but few of the older adults, reported using spatial relations among distal cues to navigate the space. In Study 2, young, middle- aged, and older adults performed the same task, but were provided with increased environmental support and pre-task training. The data pattern from Study 1 was replicated, with the performance of middle-aged adults falling between that of young and older adults. Although older adults in Study 2 reported less experience at completing computer-based tasks than did young and middle-aged adults, effects of this differential level of computer experience appeared to diminish over the course of experimental procedures (i.e., group differences that appeared on pre-task non-spatial practice trials were not apparent on a similar post-task trial). Age-related differences in spatial cognition persisted, however. Thus, the current data (a) suggest that a human cognitive mapping system changes over the lifespan, (b) suggest that computer-generated tasks can be sensitive to those changes, and (c) are consistent with a substantial literature investigating age- related changes in human and rodent spatial cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-566
Number of pages22
JournalCyberpsychology and Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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