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Human participants searched in a virtual-environment open-field search task for four hidden goal locations arranged in a diamond configuration located in a 5 x 5 matrix. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Pattern Only, Landmark + Pattern, or Cues + Pattern. All participants experienced a Training phase followed by a Testing phase. During Training, visual cues were coincident with goal locations for the Cues + Pattern group, and a single visual cue at a non-goal location maintained a consistent spatial relationship with the goal locations for the Landmark + Pattern group. All groups were then tested in the absence of visual cues. Presence of the visual cue(s) during Training facilitated acquisition of the task, but the Landmark + Pattern group and the Cues + Pattern group did not differ when their visual cues were removed during Testing and performed superior to the Pattern Only group. Results suggest learning based upon the spatial relations among locations may not be susceptible to cue-competition effects and facilitation of learning spatial relations by visual cues does not require visual exposure to the configuration of goal locations.

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