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Mijksenaar/VU Wayfinding Summer School

Does stress influence wayfinding?

VU University Amsterdam, 2016

VU University students performed a small study in collaboration with Mijksenaar to answer this question. The students were part of a VU Cognitive Psychology class that attended Mijksenaar Wayfinding Summer School.

Researching the relation between stress and wayfinding
Participants carried out a wayfinding task (like finding a platform or gate), while the level of stress and cognitive capacity were manipulated. This was achieved by creating time pressure (your train is leaving in 5 minutes!) and by diminishing available cognitive capacity (participants had to perform mental math). Thirteen participants had to find their way to a location under these experimental conditions.

– time to reach destination
– performance on cognitive task
– eye movements
– heart rate
– respiration

There is no basis for rock-solid conclusions, however these were the findings:

  • Time pressure stress improves wayfinding for participants without cognitive task.
  • Time pressure stress makes wayfinding hard to impossible for participants with cognitive task.
  • All good. No hurry, no one is counting the minutes for participants without cognitive task, and no time pressure. People might even look around a bit …

Positive feedback
‘For several years now, Mijksenaar has provided expert classes to students interested in the psychology of wayfinding. These classes have proven vivid and informative, actively involving students in an interactive manner. Mijksenaar’s expert classes and workshops are highly appreciated by students, who enjoy learning from specialists in the field.’

– Prof. Chris Olivers, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, Cognitive Psychology


Thanks to Chris Olivers and his students at VU Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, Cognitive Psychology.