Sense of Direction: One or Two Dimensions?

Authors Clare Davies, Lucy Athersuch, Nikki Amos

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Clare Davies
Lucy Athersuch
Nikki Amos

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Clare Davies, Lucy Athersuch, and Nikki Amos. Sense of Direction: One or Two Dimensions?. In 13th International Conference on Spatial Information Theory (COSIT 2017). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 86, pp. 9:1-9:13, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2017)


The Santa Barbara Sense of Direction scale (SBSOD) has been an invaluable research tool for over 15 years. Previous studies with non-US populations, despite supporting the scale's internal validity, suggested national differences in individual item responses and possibly the factor analytic structure, although translation differences were confounded with cultural and environmental factors. Using a pooled British sample (N=151) - avoiding linguistic translation, yet reflecting 'old world' environmental experience and strategies - this paper revisits the SBSOD's validity and structure. While largely supporting the scale's internal validity across cultures and spatial environments, findings from this population suggest at least a two-factor structure underlying the scores, with the first factor explaining less than half of its variance, supporting the oft-discussed division between survey- and route-oriented strategies. We conclude by proposing a more nuanced, efficiency-based theory of 'sense of direction'.
  • sense of direction
  • spatial ability
  • cognitive mapping


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