Homing in virtual environments: Effects of field of view and path layout
Triangle completion (ie homing to the starting point after completing two legs of a triangle) is a widely used method for examining path-integration abilities in animals and humans. Two experiments are reported in which homing was used to examine the efficiency of purely visual mechanisms (eg optical flow) for spatial-information coding and integration. Adult observers had to complete triangles in an interactively simulated three-dimensional environment which consisted of two critical objects and a homogeneous set of white cylinders serving asbackground. Each participant completed twenty-seven triangles corresponding to a factorial combination of three geometrical fields of view (40ø, 60ø, or 80ø) and nine triangle layouts (with variations of the first turning angle and the second leg). Homing performances revealed strong effects of triangle layout, but no effect of geometrical fields of view: variations in the amount of simultaneous visible spatial information did not influence the acquisition of spatial knowledge in the environments used. Applying the encoding-error model to the data revealed severe systematic errors of picking up directional information while moving through visually simulated environments. These results are discussed with respect to informational differences between situations of purely visual and nonvisual navigations in space.