Causal Essay – Dale Hamstra

Easier Said Than Done

Walking straight is easier said than done, when there are no visual clues that is. In various studies performed by the German scientist and researcher, Jan Souman, it was found that “the blindfolded subjects could not keep a straight line” (Krulwich). This is largely due to the fact that when we walk, we use a variety of visual clues, such as the sun or a tree, to keep us a straight path. It has been found that when we no longer are able to use these visual clues it becomes near impossible for us to not end up going in circles.

In an experiment I conducted myself, these results were confirmed when none of the participants were able to walk in a straight path. The average distance that the target area was missed by, to the right or left, was forty feet. However, I then had them make the same walk, but played a loud noise, which resembled the sound of a digital alarm clock, from the target area. All of the participants were then able to hit the target, although they all took a curved path in getting there.

This proved my original hypothesis, that an auditory clue could replace a visual clue in navigation, correct. However, I was not the first to test this hypothesis. In Helsinki, Finland a group of researchers also found that “in most cases the subjects found the target area” (Lokki, Grohn and Savioja). In this experiment “the test task was to find a sound source in a dynamic virtual environment” (Lokki, Grohn and Savioja). The only major difference between this study and my experiment is that this study was done in a virtual environment while mine was done outdoors.

After I found that someone would walk towards a noise when blindfolded, I decided to make a new hypothesis that someone could correct their mistakes on multiple trials with feedback. To test this I had the participants do the test multiple times, giving them feedback about what they did wrong each time. All but one time the participant was able to change their direction. However, all of them, except one, over corrected and ended up failing to the opposite side. Everyone who failed to the right ended up failing to left, and vies versa. With one person who failed to the left continually. This leads me to believe that there is a clear cause effect relationship between feedback and the correction of mistakes in walking. With the cause being the feedback, and the effect being that they corrected their mistakes.

There are also other minor factors that played a role and cannot be over-looked. These include imperfections in the ground that could have shifted someone’s weight or momentum just enough to change their direction a small amount. Also, wind speed could play a small factor since there were high wind speeds one of the days I preformed the experiment.

After, experimentation by many people it is clear that when there is a lack of a visual clue it is nearly impossible to walk in a straight line. However, someone can find a target area when there is a auditory clue in place of a visual one. Also, with feedback, someone can learn to correct their mistakes and, hypothetically, guide themselves to a target area.

Works Cited

Krulwich, Robert. A Mystery: Why Can’t we Walk Straight. 7 march 2012.

Lokki, Tapio, et al. A Case Study of Auditory Navigation in Virtual Acoustic Enviornments. 3 April 2012 <;.

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3 Responses to Causal Essay – Dale Hamstra

  1. dalehamstra27 says:

    Professor, can I please have some feedback on this essay? I am considering putting it in my portfolio. Thank you

  2. davidbdale says:

    Sure, Dale.

    Your second sentence uses an odd passive “it was found.” Wasn’t it Souman who found? Rephrase to give him credit for his own findings, as we will want others to say, “In his ground-breaking aural cues study, Hamstra found . . . . ”

    Check the MLA notes to see if that period belongs after line and before the Krulwich citation. If so, I like the citation technique.

    nearly impossible

    Readers unfamiliar with your topic may find it hard to believe the claim “going in circles” and may think you’re simply exaggerating, Dale. You’re allowed to spend a few words, maybe quite a few words, to convince them you mean this literally. Describe the paths made by the test subjects in that NPR video. They made complete spirals that circled a dozen times clockwise, turned hard left, then circled repeatedly counterclockwise. In other words, make this paper stand on its own here. Later, when you fold it into the bigger paper, you can trim any redundancies.

    . . . because when you say, to open P2, “these results,” nobody but you and me would know what you’re talking about. [For best results, hand this paper to someone unfamiliar with the topic and see if they follow it.]

    Telling me your subjects missed by 40 feet when I have no idea how far they’ve walked is not very helpful. Spend more time describing your setup. The mechanics of the experiment are very important to aid reader understanding.

    What does it mean to miss the target? Was it a fixed spot along a line, so that subjects crossed the line either at the spot or a measurable distance from it? Or did they elect to stop walking themselves when they thought they had hit the target?

    Playing a loud noise from the target sounds like the equivalent of standing on the target and coaxing your subjects, “No, over here!” Do I understand this setup correctly?

    You need dashes, not commas: —that an auditory . . . navigation—correct.

    I don’t get nearly enough information to evaluate your claim that “the only major difference” was as you say. What the heck does it mean to say Lokki et. al. ran their test in a virtual environment? It’s intriguing, but not satisfying. You’ve made me want to know; so satisfy me.

    This first stage of your feedback experiment is very gratifying, but you gave up much too quickly. I understand this is not a large scale, funded study, Dale, but you’ve raised more questions than you’ve answered here. I really want to know whether a little more feedback would be sufficient to train walkers in an hour to be super-navigators able to monitor their own blind walking far better than first-timers.

    As for your conclusion that one can follow an auditory clue, it’s useful, but not complete. I’d like to know if a sound from somewhere other than directly on the target would be helpful. After all, we can use the sun to navigate even if we’re not walking in the direction of the sun.

    General comment: Sharing a wealth of information in a few words is ideal. Using so few words that valuable, desirable information is withheld is a failure to communicate. Say it briefly, Dale, but say more.

  3. davidbdale says:

    Very disappointed to see no revisions yet since feedback. Grade Recorded.

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