, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 774-780
Date: 03 May 2011

Head for the hills: The influence of environmental slant on spatial memory organization

Abstract

Environmental slant is known to improve navigation performance in humans and other animals. Successful navigation relies on accurate spatial orientation and accurate spatial memory retrieval. The role of environmental slant in spatial orientation has been established, but its role in spatial memory organization is unclear. Two experiments using immersive virtual reality explored the influence of environmental slant on reference frame selection during spatial learning. Participants studied object locations on a sloped surface. When no additional environmental cues were present (Experiment 1), spatial memory retrieval was best from the studied perspective aligned with the direction of slope. When the direction of slope was placed in competition with the axis of the surrounding room (Experiment 2), spatial memory retrieval was best from the initially studied perspective. The latter finding contrasts with the results of research showing that pigeons preferentially rely on environmental slant over room shape. The findings are discussed in the context of spatial memory theory.