Term of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Bradley Sturz

Committee Member 1

Kent Bodily

Committee Member 2

Lawrence Locker

Committee Member 3

Lawrence Locker


Spatial pattern learning is defined as an ability to learn spatial relationships of objects in space without the use of discrete visual landmarks or environmental geometry (Brown & Terrinoni, 1996). Spatial pattern learning has been suggested to be a distinct form of learning because it is not affected by cue competition and has been shown to occur in the absence of discrete landmarks and environmental geometry (Brown, Yang, & DiGian, 2002; Sturz Brown, & Kelly, 2009). In the proposed study, the distinctness of spatial pattern learning was investigated. Specifically, human participants searched in an interactive 3-D computer generated virtual environment open-field search task for four unmarked goal locations which were arranged in a diamond configuration located in a 5 x 5 matrix of raised bins. The pattern moved to a random location from trial-to-trial but always maintained the same spatial relations to each other (i.e., diamond pattern). Participants were randomly assigned to either a Visual Pattern group or a Visual Random group in which the visual stimuli (i.e., four red bins) were either arranged in a pattern consistent but not coincident with the unmarked goal locations (Visual Pattern group) or were randomly arranged in the virtual room (Visual Random group). If spatial pattern learning is processed by a distinct learning system that utilizes visual information, then the exposure to the structured visual cues (i.e., red bins) should facilitate spatial pattern learning compared to exposure to random visual cues. Consequently, we found that participants in the Visual Pattern group performed significantly better than those in the Visual Random group. Collectively, results are consistent with an interpretation based upon a spatial learning system dedicated to processing visual pattern information.

Research Data and Supplementary Material


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