M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentShechter Chen
SubjectThe Importance of Landmark Visibility on the Formation
of a Mental Map during Pedestrian Navigation
DepartmentDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Supervisors PROF. Sagi Dalyot
ASSOCIATE PROF. Dafna Fisher-Gewirtzm


Navigation systems are widely used today, effectively directing and bringing the user from the origin to the destination; however, in the absence of mentioning points of reference (e.g., landmarks and abstract phenomena), the route the user travels on is not built in the user’s mind and consciousness, thus a mental map is not constructed. This can result in limitations in terms of the user’s spatial perception, as well as spatial cognition deficiencies that can result in disorientation that sometimes can lead to road accidents.

With the aim to suggest a method to overcome these deficiencies and improve the commonly used navigation process, the purpose of this research is to examine whether there exists a correlation between the visibility of the landmarks in the space and the construction of a mental map during the navigation process. That is, what is the contribution of visible landmarks - and invisible landmarks - on the creation of a good mental map and route knowledge in the user's mind during a navigation process. The research hypothesis is that a combination and communication of landmarks during the navigation process will improve the construction of a mental map in the user's mind, whereas the visibility and invisibility of landmarks will have a different effect.

In order to examine the research hypothesis, several stages were performed. First, a 3D GIS (Geographic Information System) model is developed, which is used to automatically retrieve visible and invisible landmarks for a specified route. Second, to quantitatively and qualitatively analyze and evaluate the effect of landmarks communication on the users’ spatial cognition, experiments are conducted, in which pedestrian participants navigate an unfamiliar route (origin to destination) with a navigation system. During the navigation process, visible and invisible landmarks are communicated to the participants. After completing the navigation process, the participants are asked to perform several tasks designed to evaluate their familiarity of the space they just traversed, including: answering questions about the navigation and their orientation experience, drawing a map that describes the route and the space they traversed. By analyzing these results, it was possible to examine their ability to reconstruct the route, and hence draw conclusions regarding the influence and importance of the visibility of the landmarks on their spatial perception. These made it possible to gain insights and understandings on the impact of landmarks’ visibility on the enrichment of the navigation process in terms of mental map reconstruction and route knowledge. In addition, certain metrics are obtained for deciding which landmarks are important to communicate - visible and invisible - and on what parts of the route. These can later be used for the development of a model and indices used for navigation enrichment purposes.