Animal Cognition

, 9:207 | Cite as

Evidence against integration of spatial maps in humans

  • Bradley R. SturzEmail author
  • Kent D. Bodily
  • Jeffrey S. Katz
Original Article


A dynamic 3-D virtual environment was constructed for humans as an open-field analogue of Blaisdell and Cook's (2005) pigeon foraging task to determine if humans, like pigeons, were capable of integrating separate spatial maps. Participants used keyboard keys and a mouse to search for a hidden goal in a 4×4 grid of raised cups. During Phase 1 training, a goal was consistently located between two landmarks (Map 1: blue T and red L). During Phase 2 training, a goal was consistently located down and left of a single landmark (Map 2: blue T). Transfer trials were then conducted in which participants were required to make choices in the presence of the red L alone. Cup choices during transfer assessed participants’ strategies: association (from Map 1), generalization (from Map 2), or integration (combining Map 1 and 2). During transfer, cup choices increased to a location which suggested an integration strategy and was consistent with results obtained with pigeons. However, additional analyses of the human data suggested participants initially used a generalization strategy followed by a progressive shift in search behavior away from the red L. This shift in search behavior during transfer was responsible for the changes in cup choices across transfer trials and was confirmed by a control condition. These new analyses offer an alternative explanation to the spatial integration account proposed for pigeons.


Virtual Environment Human Spatial Cognitive Map Integration 



This research was supported by grant NSF IBN-0316133 to Jeffrey S. Katz. This research was conducted following the relevant ethical guidelines for human research. The authors would like to thank Ken Cheng and three anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. The authors would also like to thank J. Keeley and A. A. Lazarte for statistical advice and Emily Gray for information regarding the creation of the spatial distribution plots.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bradley R. Sturz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kent D. Bodily
    • 1
  • Jeffrey S. Katz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, 226 Thach HallAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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