Background: Military pilots show advanced visuospatial skills. Previous studies demonstrate that they are better at mentally rotating a target, taking different perspectives, estimating distances and planning travel and have a topographic memory. Here, we compared navigational cognitive styles between military pilots and people without flight experience. Pilots were expected to be more survey-style users than nonpilots, showing more advanced navigational strategies. Method: A total of 106 military jet pilots from the Italian Air Force and 92 nonpilots from the general population matched for education with the pilots were enrolled to investigate group differences in navigational styles. The participants were asked to perform a reduced version of the Spatial Cognitive Style Test (SCST), consisting of six tasks that allow us to distinguish individuals in terms of landmark (people orient themselves by using a figurative memory for environmental objects), route (people use an egocentric representation of the space) and survey (people have a map-like representation of the space) user styles. Results: In line with our hypothesis, military pilots mainly adopt the survey style, whereas nonpilots mainly adopt the route style. In addition, pilots outperformed nonpilots in both the 3D Rotation Task and Map Description Task. Conclusions: Military flight expertise influences some aspects of spatial ability, leading to enhanced human navigation. However, it must be considered that they are a population whose navigational skills were already high at the time of selection at the academy before formal training began.

Do advanced spatial strategies depend on the number of flight hours? The case of military pilots

Giancola M.;Verde P.;Piccardi L.;Bocchi A.;Palmiero M.;
2021

Abstract

Background: Military pilots show advanced visuospatial skills. Previous studies demonstrate that they are better at mentally rotating a target, taking different perspectives, estimating distances and planning travel and have a topographic memory. Here, we compared navigational cognitive styles between military pilots and people without flight experience. Pilots were expected to be more survey-style users than nonpilots, showing more advanced navigational strategies. Method: A total of 106 military jet pilots from the Italian Air Force and 92 nonpilots from the general population matched for education with the pilots were enrolled to investigate group differences in navigational styles. The participants were asked to perform a reduced version of the Spatial Cognitive Style Test (SCST), consisting of six tasks that allow us to distinguish individuals in terms of landmark (people orient themselves by using a figurative memory for environmental objects), route (people use an egocentric representation of the space) and survey (people have a map-like representation of the space) user styles. Results: In line with our hypothesis, military pilots mainly adopt the survey style, whereas nonpilots mainly adopt the route style. In addition, pilots outperformed nonpilots in both the 3D Rotation Task and Map Description Task. Conclusions: Military flight expertise influences some aspects of spatial ability, leading to enhanced human navigation. However, it must be considered that they are a population whose navigational skills were already high at the time of selection at the academy before formal training began.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11697/178597
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