More Than a Feeling: Incidental Learning of Array Geometry by Blind-Folded Adult Humans Revealed Through Touch

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Recent success of view-based matching theories to explain the orientation behavior of insects and birds raises questions regarding the extent to which such an explanation generalizes to other species. In the present study, we attempted to determine the extent to which view-based matching theories may explain the orientation behavior of a mammalian species (adult humans). We modified a traditional enclosure orientation task so that it involved only the use of the haptic sense. A haptic orientation task appeared ideal because it provided an opportunity to explicitly prohibit the use of vision. We trained disoriented and blind-folded human participants to search by touch for a target object hidden in one of four locations marked by distinctive textural cues located atop four discrete landmarks arranged in a rectangular array. Following training, we removed the distinctive textural cues and probed the extent to which participants learned the geometry of the landmark array. In the absence of vision and the trained textural cues, participants showed evidence that they learned the geometry of the landmark array. Such evidence cannot be explained by an appeal to view-based matching strategies and is consistent with explanations of spatial orientation related to the incidental learning of environmental geometry.


Comparative Cognition Society’s International Conference on Comparative Cognition (CCS)


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