Children's response, landmark, and metric strategies in spatial navigation

Yingying Yang, Edward C. Merrill, Qi Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


When interacting with the environment, one can encode spatial information via egocentric or allocentric perspectives. Allocentric processing can include both landmark and geometric information. The current study examined egocentric response-focused, allocentric landmark-focused, and allocentric metric-focused processing strategies in large-scale spatial environments among 38 children aged 6–8 years, 31 children aged 9 and 10 years, and 53 young adults. The current study used a new testing paradigm that made it possible to investigate all three spatial strategies in the same setting. Participants completed a series of experiments in a modified radial arm maze. By systematically changing the starting locations and landmark arrangements, the current study gradually manipulated the reliability and availability of egocentric response and landmark information while maintaining valid metric information. Overall, adults performed better than younger children, with older children performing at an intermediate level. All three groups were able to abandon the egocentric strategy when it became ineffective (Experiment 2) and to apply a landmark strategy flexibly (Experiment 3). Children demonstrated better performance than previous research has indicated. Nevertheless, the adults were more effective in using metric strategies than the two child groups (Experiment 4 and supplemental experiments). Our study suggested that in complex problem-solving situations, metric strategies were more difficult to acquire than the other two strategies and had a longer period of development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-101
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Children
  • Landmark
  • Metric
  • Radial arm maze
  • Spatial learning
  • Strategy
  • Wayfinding


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