Identifying elements of the interior environment that contribute to wayfinding cognitive processes



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The objective of this study was to explore the role of different aspects of the interior physical environment (i.e., environmental elements and attributes) in the wayfinding cognitive processes (i.e., information pickup, spatial memory, spatial knowledge acquisition, spatial updating, and spatial reference frame). Performing a wayfinding task can be difficult and stressful in large and complex public buildings, such as hospitals, airports, and office buildings. Wayfinding problem has been associated with feeling confusion, frustration, anger, anxiety, and stress. The consequences of being lost can be even more serious when one cannot find the emergency exit when a building is on fire. This study used a nonexperimental, exploratory research design consisting of qualitative methods and quantitative descriptive techniques. Participants were asked to find 12 destinations in two buildings (six destinations each), and several types of data were collected. The basic data types were (1) verbal protocol; (2) subjects’ responses to spatial knowledge tests, psychometric tests, and questionnaires; and (3) digital video recording. Fifteen environmental factors that may contribute to wayfinding were identified: (1) landmarks, (2) corridors, (3) nodes, (4) regions, (5) stairs, (6) central spaces, (7) courtyards, (8) entrances, (9) connecting halls, (10) voids, (11) doors, (12) interior windows, (13) outdoor views, (14) maps, and (15) signs. These environmental factors may affect one or multiple wayfinding cognitive processes. Regarding wayfinding cognitive processes, the findings fall into two categories: (1) findings that contribute to the knowledge of the relationship between environment and wayfinding cognitive processes and (2) findings that contribute only to the knowledge of wayfinding cognitive processes. Moreover, the data provided insight into the process of wayfinding from a theoretical perspective and enabled the identification of a range of environmental factors that contribute to wayfinding.

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Wayfinding, Cognitive Process, Environmental Design, Interior Design, Architecture