Wayfinding in Children: Developmental Pathways, Supporting Cognitive Processes, and Gender Differences

Project Details


Wayfinding is critical to everyday existence. Although it begins to develop early in childhood, mastery is achieved at different ages and the pathways by which mastery is achieved differ among children in relation to gender, neurological profiles, and other characteristics. While general pathways are well described, how heterogeneity in child development contributes to mastery is less understood. This project provides a more complete cognitive model of wayfinding development in children by studying how it develops among children with diverse social and demographic characteristics. The project contributes to broadening capacity for research at a minority-serving institution, trains graduate and undergraduate students from under-represented populations, and disseminates results broadly to academic and public audiences. This project centers on four research questions: 1) Do wayfinding skills develop sequentially in stages or in overlapping or parallel ways? 2) How well do virtual-reality wayfinding skills capture the development of wayfinding in ecologically valid environments? 3) What roles do verbal and spatial processes in children play in the development of wayfinding skills? 4) What roles do gender and other social and demographic characteristics play in how wayfinding unfolds across development? To investigate these questions, the investigators recruit children from ages 6-10 with varying social and demographic backgrounds to complete wayfinding tasks in virtual-reality and real-life environments. The children further complete a series of cognitive tasks that measure verbal and spatial skills that allow investigators to examine the relationships among socio-demographic characteristics and verbal, spatial, and wayfinding development. The research provides a much-needed, holistic understanding of the development of a life skill that is critical to ordinary functioning across livelihood domains.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date1/01/2331/12/25


  • National Science Foundation: $335,050.00


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