This paper examines individual differences in spatial abilities and strategies, focusing on spatial navigation tasks, including maintaining a sense of location and orientation in a known environment, and learning the layout of new places. First we review how these “large-scale” spatial abilities are measured, including both self-report measures of “sense of direction” and objective measures of navigation performance or knowledge of learned environments. Then we review some of the major findings of research to date on these individual differences. These include the findings that (a) individual differences in navigation abilities among the general population are large, (b) self-report measures are predictive of objective measures, (c) large-scale spatial ability is partially dissociated from small-scale spatial abilities measured by typical pencil-and-paper measures of spatial ability, and (d) individual differences in navigation are characterized by differences in navigation style or strategy as well as proficiency. Finally we identify some gaps in this literature and discuss priorities for future research.
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