Overtraining and the Use of Feature and Geometric Cues for Reorientation

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Psychological Research






Using a dynamic three-dimensional virtual environment task, we investigated the influence of overtraining of feature and geometric cues on preferential spatial cue use. We trained two groups of human participants to respond to feature and geometric cues in separate enclosures before placing these cues in conflict on a critical test trial. All participants learned to respond to rewarded features located along the principal axis of a rectangular search space and to rewarded geometric cues of a rectangular search space in separate training phases followed by a single test trial. During the test trial, we situated the rewarded features in the unrewarded geometric corners and the unrewarded features in rewarded geometric corners. For one group, participants were overtrained with feature cues compared to geometric cues before experiencing the conflict test; whereas, for another group, participants were overtrained with geometric cues compared to feature cues before experiencing the conflict test. Although both groups learned to respond to both feature and geometric cues at an equivalent rate and to an equivalent level of terminal accuracy, testing results revealed no difference between the groups with respect to their preference for feature or geometric cues. Despite a lack of influence of overtraining on spatial cue preference, participants showed an overall preference for feature cues. We discuss the results with respect to implications for theoretical accounts of spatial learning.


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