Spatial reorientation: the effects of space size on the encoding of landmark and geometry information
The effects of the size of the environment on animals’ spatial reorientation was investigated. Domestic chicks were trained to find food in a corner of either a small or a large rectangular enclosure. A distinctive panel was located at each of the four corners of the enclosures. After removal of the panels, chicks tested in the small enclosure showed better retention of geometrical information than chicks tested in the large enclosure. In contrast, after changing the enclosure from a rectangular-shaped to a square-shaped one, chicks tested in the large enclosure showed better retention of landmark (panels) information than chicks tested in the small enclosure. No differences in the encoding of the overall arrangement of landmarks were apparent when chicks were tested for generalisation in an enclosure differing from that of training in size together with a transformation (affine transformation) that altered the geometric relations between the target and the shape of the environment. These findings suggest that primacy of geometric or landmark information in reorientation tasks depends on the size of the experimental space, likely reflecting a preferential use of the most reliable source of information available during visual exploration of the environment.
KeywordsSpatial reorientation Geometric module Modularity Human infants Domestic chicks
All authors contributed identically to this work. We thank Ken Cheng for suggesting us Experiment 1 and Marco Feruglio for help in testing the animals. The research was supported by grants MIUR Cofin 2004, 2004070353_002 “Intellat” and MIPAF “Benolat” to G.V. L.R. was supported by the University of Padua, “Progetto di Ricerca di Ateneo 2004/05”.
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