An influential theory of spatial navigation states that the boundary shape of an environment is preferentially encoded over and above other spatial cues, such that it is impervious to interference from alternative sources of information. We explored this claim with 3 intradimensional–extradimensional shift experiments, designed to examine the interaction of landmark and geometric features of the environment in a virtual navigation task. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants were first required to find a hidden goal using information provided by the shape of the arena or landmarks integrated into the arena boundary (Experiment 1) or within the arena itself (Experiment 2). Participants were then transferred to a different-shaped arena that contained novel landmarks and were again required to find a hidden goal. In both experiments, participants who were navigating on the basis of cues that were from the same dimension that was previously relevant (intradimensional shift) learned to find the goal significantly faster than participants who were navigating on the basis of cues that were from a dimension that was previously irrelevant (extradimensional shift). This suggests that shape information does not hold special status when learning about an environment. Experiment 3 replicated Experiment 2 and also assessed participants’ recognition of the global shape of the navigated arenas. Recognition was attenuated when landmarks were relevant to navigation throughout the experiment. The results of these experiments are discussed in terms of associative and non-associative theories of spatial learning.
|Journal||Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition|
|Publication status||Published - Mar 2014|
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Funding: This work contributed to Matthew G. Buckley’s doctoral degree and wasfunded by an Economic and Social Research Council studentship.