Two experiments investigated participants' ability to follow navigation instructions in a situation simulating communication between air traffic controllers and aircrews. A verbal condition, in which instructions were given orally, was compared with a spatial condition, in which commands were shown on a computer display as simulated movements, with the presentation times in the two conditions equated. Retention and transfer were studied a week later when participants performed in either the same or the other condition. In both sessions, participants' initial proportion correct was much higher in the spatial than in the verbal condition, but after three blocks, accuracy in the two conditions was equivalent. Retention was perfect when training and test conditions matched. Training in the verbal condition transferred to the spatial condition but not vice versa. Thus, there is evidence that participants' representations of the movements in the verbal and spatial conditions were not equivalent. Published in 2009 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.