Orientation via Enclosure Geometry by Blind-folded Adults: Evidence Against View-based Matching Theories of Spatial Orientation

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Although spatial orientation via geometric properties of an environment is an ability shared across species, debate remains concerning similarities and differences in the underlying mechanism(s). One theoretical account of spatial orientation suggests that participants match visual memories to current visual perception and navigate to reduce discrepancy between the two. We tested a view-based matching account of spatial orientation by training 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 in the corners of a rectangular enclosure. Following training, we removed the distinctive textural cues and probed the extent to which participants learned the geometry of the enclosure. Even in the absence of vision and unique textural cues, search behavior was consistent with evidence for the encoding of enclosure geometry. A follow-up experiment in which participants were trained in a rectangle but tested in a square provided evidence that search behavior was influenced by the geometric properties of the enclosure. Results suggest that in the absence of vision, participant learned the geometric properties of the enclosure. Results appear inconsistent with theories of spatial orientation based upon matching visual memories with current visual perception.


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


Melbourne, FL