Cognitive load exacerbates rightward biases during computer maze navigation

Megan L. Bartlett, O. Scott Gwinn, Nicole A. Thomas, Michael E.R. Nicholls

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Neurologically healthy individuals exhibit subtle attentional asymmetries, such that attention is preferentially directed leftwards for objects in near space and rightwards for objects in far space. These attentional biases also affect navigation and cause people to deviate to the right when passing through an aperture. The current study examined whether the rightward deviations observed in real-world environments translate to simulated environments. As proof of concept and to determine whether rightward biases could be further exacerbated, the degree of cognitive load imposed on participants was manipulated. Experiment 1 asked participants to navigate through the centre of a computer-based doorway. In one block of trials, participants completed the task by itself (baseline condition), while in another block of trials they also completed a simple auditory discrimination task (load condition). While analyses revealed rightward biases for both conditions, the difference between conditions was not significant. Experiment 2 therefore increased the difficulty of the auditory task. Analyses revealed a significant difference between conditions, suggesting that the degree of cognitive load further exacerbates rightward biases, demonstrating that the rightward asymmetries in navigation observed in the real world generalises to a simulated environment and that this phenomenon behaves in a way that is consistent with pseudoneglect.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number105547
    Number of pages9
    JournalBrain and Cognition
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


    • Attention
    • Navigation
    • Bisection
    • Extrapersonal
    • Cognitive load


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