Paper maps or GPS? Exploring differences in way finding behaviour and spatial knowledge acquisition

K. Field, James O'Brien, L. Beale

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


People undertake a range of daily activities that are characterised by spatial behaviour with one of the main examples being planning and navigating a route from an origin to a destination. Navigation is an extremely common task yet one that requires complex cognitive processing to find ones way in an environment. With the advent of GPS technology many navigation tasks have been given over to a computer so many car journeys are now directed by voice command and followed by human reaction. Increasingly, GPS receivers are available in hand-held devices and smartphones and similar navigation software has given rise to satellite navigation for pedestrians. The research presented here explores the extent to which way finding behaviour and spatial knowledge acquisition vary between users who navigate using GPS –based devices and those who use conventional paper maps in unfamiliar environments. GPS-based navigation affects a user’s way finding behaviour and results in poorer spatial understanding when compared to those who undertake similar tasks with paper maps yet people are now more familiar with digital representations rather than paper maps.. A number of reasons for the differences in results are explored and some possible solutions to resolve the discrepancies proposed. The move to increasing use of GPS-enabled navigation devices is likely not to abate but resolving the deterioration of spatial literacy is important to ensuring good spatial knowledge acquisition so that navigation can improve and be comparable to paper based navigation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 25th International Cartographic Conference
PublisherEuropa Organisation
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781907075056
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventInternational Cartographic Conference (25th : 2011) - Paris
Duration: 3 Jul 20118 Jul 2011


ConferenceInternational Cartographic Conference (25th : 2011)


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