Beacons and Surface Features Differentially Influence Human Reliance on Global and Local Geometric Cues When Reorienting in a Virtual Environment

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Behavioural Processes





In the reorientation literature, non-geometric cues include discrete objects (e.g., beacons) and surface-based features (e.g., colors, textures, and odors). To date, these types of non-geometric cues have been considered functionally similar, and it remains unknown whether beacons and surface features differentially influence the extent to which organisms reorient via global and local geometric cues. In the present experiment, we trained human participants to approach a location in a trapezoid-shaped enclosure uniquely specified by global and local geometric cues. We explored the role of beacons on the use of geometric cues by training participants in the presence or absence of uniquely-colored beacons. We explored the role of surface features on the use of geometric cues by recoloring two adjacent walls at the correct location and/or adding a line on the floor which corresponded to the major principal axis of the enclosure. All groups were then tested in novel-shaped enclosures in the absence of unique beacons and surface features to assess the relative use of global and local geometric cues. Results suggested that beacons facilitated the use of global geometric cues, whereas surface features either facilitated or hindered the use of geometric cues, depending on the feature.