Shape shifting: Local landmarks interfere with navigation by, and recognition of, global shape.


An influential theory of spatial navigation states that the boundary shape of an environment is preferentially encoded over and above other spatial cues, such that it is impervious to interference from alternative sources of information. We explored this claim with 3 intradimensional–extradimensional shift experiments, designed to examine the interaction of landmark and geometric features of the environment in a virtual navigation task. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants were first required to find a hidden goal using information provided by the shape of the arena or landmarks integrated into the arena boundary (Experiment 1) or within the arena itself (Experiment 2). Participants were then transferred to a different-shaped arena that contained novel landmarks and were again required to find a hidden goal. In both experiments, participants who were navigating on the basis of cues that were from the same dimension that was previously relevant (intradimensional shift) learned to find the goal significantly faster than participants who were navigating on the basis of cues that were from a dimension that was previously irrelevant (extradimensional shift). This suggests that shape information does not hold special status when learning about an environment. Experiment 3 replicated Experiment 2 and also assessed participants’ recognition of the global shape of the navigated arenas. Recognition was attenuated when landmarks were relevant to navigation throughout the experiment. The results of these experiments are discussed in terms of associative and non-associative theories of spatial learning.

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Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences
Additional Information: This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s). Author(s) grant(s) the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher Funding: This work contributed to Matthew G. Buckley’s doctoral degree and wasfunded by an Economic and Social Research Council studentship.
Publication ISSN: 1939-1285
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 07:23
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2021 14:51
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Related URLs: https://psycnet ... -40558-001.html (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2014-03
Authors: Buckley, MG (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-6879-9408)
Smith, AD
Haselgrove, Mark



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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