Environment Size and the Use of Feature and Geometric Cues for Reorientation

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Acta Psychologica






We tested associative-based accounts of orientation by investigating the influence of environment size on the use of feature and geometric cues for reorientation. Two groups of participants were trained in dynamic three-dimensional virtual rectangular environments that differed in size to find a distinctly colored bin located at one of the four corners. Subsequently, we probed the reliance on feature and geometric cues for reorientation during test trials by presenting six trial types: Small Geometry Only, Large Geometry Only, Small Cue Conflict, Large Cue Conflict, Small Distal, and Large Distal. During Geometry Only test trials, all bins were black; thus, all distinctive featural information was removed leaving only geometric cues. For Cue Conflict test trials, all colored bins were shifted counter-clockwise one corner; thus, the geometric cues from the trained corner and the trained color were in direct conflict. During Distal test trials, the bin in the geometrically incorrect corner farthest from the trained corner was colored the same as during training; the remaining three bins were black. Thus, only this distant feature cue could be used to determine the location of the goal bin. Results suggested that geometric cues were used across changes in environment size, featural cues exerted greater influence when in conflict with geometric cues, and the far featural cue was used to disambiguate the correct from the rotationally equivalent location. In short, both feature and geometric cues were used for reorientation, and environment size influenced the relative use of feature and geometric cues. Collectively, our results provide evidence against associative-based accounts of orientation.