This contribution provides an overview of elements of cognitively ergonomic route directions. Cognitive ergonomics, in general, seeks to identify characteristics of cognitive information processing and to formalize these characteristics such that they can be used to improve information systems. For route directions, an increasing number of behavioral studies have, for example, pointed to the following characteristics: the use of landmarks, changing levels of granularity, the qualitative description of spatial relations. The authors detail these aspects and additionally introduce formal approaches that incorporate them to automatically provide route directions that adhere to principles of cognitive ergonomics.
Cognitive Aspects Of Route Directions
Route directions fascinate researchers in several fields. Since the 70s linguists and cognitive scientists have used verbal route directions as a window to cognition to learn about cognitive processes that reflect structuring principles of environmental knowledge (e.g., Klein, 1978). Over the last decade, the number of publications on various aspects of route directions has increased. Next to the general aspects of how to provide route directions and how to identify principles that allow us to define what makes route directions cognitively ergonomic, technical aspects of navigation support systems have become an additional focus. The question required from the latter perspective is part of a broader approach that aims to formally characterize the meaning (semantics) of spatial relations. In other words, if we want to bridge the gap between information systems and behavioral analysis we have to answer how we perform the transition from data to knowledge.
Several key elements can be identified based on psychological and linguistic literature on route directions that are pertinent for cognitively ergonomic route directions (Denis, 1997; Lovelace, Hegarty, & Montello, 1999; Tversky & Lee, 1999). These comprise the conceptualization of directions at decision points, the spatial chunking of route direction elements to obtain hierarchies and to change the level of granularity, the role of landmarks, the communication in different modalities, the traveling in different modes, and aspects of personalization (see Table 1). Most research on routes and route directions deals with navigation in urban structures such as street networks. The results discussed in this article focus on this domain.Table 1.
Cognitive ergonomics of route directions
|Cognitively ergonomic route directions|
|• are qualitative, not quantitative,|
|• allow for different levels of granularity and organize spatial knowledge hierarchically,|
|• reflect cognitive conceptualizations of directions at decision points,|
|• chunk route direction elements into larger units to reduce cognitive load,|
|• use landmarks to:|
|° disambiguate spatial situations,|
|° anchor turning actions,|
|° and to confirm that the right actions have been taken,|
|• present information in multimodal communication systems allowing for an interplay of language and graphics, but respecting for the underlying conceptual structure,|
| • allow for an adaptation to the user’s familiarity with an environment, as well as personal styles and different languages.|
Key Terms in this Chapter
Granularity: Here, it refers to the detail in route directions; from coarse levels for general planning to finer levels to provide context-specific information, for example at decision points.
Spatial Semantic Hierarchy (SSH): A computational model defining acquisition and representation of spatial knowledge on different levels of abstraction ranging from sensory information to topological knowledge.
Personalization: Adaptation of information presentation and interaction with a device / software to the needs and preferences of a specific, individual user.
Route Directions: A set of instructions that allow a wayfinder in known or unknown environments to follow a route from a start point to a destination.
OpenLS: Specification of an open platform for location-based services defining their core functionality (directory service, gateway service, location utility service, presentation service, route service).
Wayfinding Choremes: Mental conceptualizations of functional wayfinding and route direction elements.
Landmark: Any entity in the environment that sticks out from the background.
Wayfinding: The cognitive conceptual activity of planning and finding ones way.