The developmental trajectory of intramaze and extramaze landmark biases in spatial navigation: An unexpected journey.

MG Buckley, Mark Haselgrove, AD Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adults learning to navigate to a hidden goal within an enclosed space have been found to prefer information provided by the distal cues of an environment, as opposed to proximal landmarks within the environment. Studies with children, however, have shown that 5- or 7-year-olds do not display any preference toward distal or proximal cues during navigation. This suggests that a bias toward learning about distal cues occurs somewhere between the age of 7 years and adulthood. We recruited 5- to 11-year-old children and an adult sample to explore the developmental profile of this putative change. Across a series of 3 experiments, participants were required to navigate to a hidden goal in a virtual environment, the location of which was signaled by both extramaze and intramaze landmark cues. During testing, these cues were placed into conflict to assess the search preferences of participants. Consistent with previously reported findings, adults were biased toward using extramaze information. However, analysis of the data from children, which incorporated age as a continuous variable, suggested that older children in our sample were, in fact, biased toward using the intramaze landmark in our task. These findings suggest the bias toward using distal cues in spatial navigation, frequently displayed by adults, may be a comparatively late developing trait, and one that could supersede an initial developmental preference for proximal landmarks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-791
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (,which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s). Author(s) grant(s) the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher

Funding: Supported by the Economic and Social Research Council. This work contributed to Matthew Buckley’s doctoral degree.


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