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.
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 <http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu>.