Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 206, Issue 1, pp 93–98 | Cite as

Going the distance: spatial scale of athletic experience affects the accuracy of path integration

  • Alastair D. SmithEmail author
  • Christina J. Howard
  • Niall Alcock
  • Kirsten Cater
Research Note


Evidence suggests that athletically trained individuals are more accurate than untrained individuals in updating their spatial position through idiothetic cues. We assessed whether training at different spatial scales affects the accuracy of path integration. Groups of rugby players (large-scale training) and martial artists (small-scale training) participated in a triangle-completion task: they were led (blindfolded) along two sides of a right-angled triangle and were required to complete the hypotenuse by returning to the origin. The groups did not differ in their assessment of the distance to the origin, but rugby players were more accurate than martial artists in assessing the correct angle to turn (heading), and landed significantly closer to the origin. These data support evidence that distance and heading components can be dissociated. Furthermore, they suggest that the spatial scale at which an individual is trained may affect the accuracy of one component of path integration but not the other.


Path integration Spatial scale Athletes Idiothetic 



ADS was supported by the Medical Research Council (Grant No. G0401132). This study depended upon the kind assistance of the sportspeople involved. We also gratefully acknowledge Bruce Hood, Iain Gilchrist, Christine Mohr, and the members of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alastair D. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christina J. Howard
    • 2
  • Niall Alcock
    • 3
  • Kirsten Cater
    • 4
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.School of Psychology, Griffith Taylor BuildingUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Bristol Cognitive Development Centre, Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  4. 4.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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