Our Approach & Overview

Experiments in the VEMI Lab are conducted using real-world layouts, Virtual Environments (VEs), and Augmented Reality (AR). We employ a number of methodological approaches in our research, often combining techniques from Psychophysics, Experimental Psychology, and Cognitive Neuroscience with principles from Human-Computer Interaction and Human Factors Engineering. 

VEMI’s underlying theory adopts a holistic perspective of the enterprise of spatiality—one that focuses on common spatial information content, representation, mental computation, and behavior, rather than emphasizing the specific sensory conduit of this spatial information.

VEMI’s research interests bridge several domains, theoretical and applied, but the core of our program is linked by a fundamental interest in what we call multimodal spatial cognition (MSC). MSC deals with topics such as spatial learning and navigation from different sensory inputs, the effects of multimodal and cross-modal interactions on the mental representation of space, and a comparison of spatial computations, spatial problem solving, and spatial behavior between different information sources.

Underlying our interest in Multimodal Spatial Cognition is the theory of functional equivalence of spatial representations. At the heart of this hypothesis is the notion that when information is matched between inputs, learning from separate encoding modalities can build up into a common spatial representation in memory (called the spatial image in working memory or the cognitive map in long-term memory).

At VEMI, we study navigation behaviors (environmental learning and wayfinding) between blind, blindfolded-sighted, and sighted participants, with a growing interest in aging and how spatial performance changes across the lifespan. Compared to outdoor travel, indoor navigation is aided by far less information from the environment, orienting cues, and external aids (such as maps or GPS).