Animal Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 139–146

Is there an innate geometric module? Effects of experience with angular geometric cues on spatial re-orientation based on the shape of the environment

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10071-007-0099-y

Cite this article as:
Chiandetti, C. & Vallortigara, G. Anim Cogn (2008) 11: 139. doi:10.1007/s10071-007-0099-y


Non-human animals and human children can make use of the geometric shape of an environment for spatial reorientation and in some circumstances reliance on purely geometric information (metric properties of surfaces and sense) can overcome the use of local featural cues. Little is known as to whether the use of geometric information is in some way reliant on past experience or, as would likely be argued by advocates of the notion of a geometric module, it is innate. We tested the navigational abilities of newborn domestic chicks reared in either rectangular or circular cages. Chicks were trained in a rectangular-shaped enclosure with panels placed at the corners to provide salient featural cues. Rectangular-reared and circular-reared chicks proved equally able to learn the task. When tested after removal of the featural cues, both rectangular- and circular-reared chicks showed evidence that they had spontaneously encoded geometric information. Moreover, when trained in a rectangular-shaped enclosure without any featural cues, chicks reared in rectangular-, circular-, or c-shaped cages proved to be equally able to learn and perform the task using geometric information. These results suggest that effective use of geometric information for spatial reorientation does not require experience in environments with right angles and metrically distinct surfaces, thus supporting the hypothesis of a predisposed geometric module in the animal brain.


Geometric module Spatial orientation Modularity Chicks Children 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and B.R.A.I.N. Centre for NeuroscienceUniversity of TriesteTriesteItaly

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