Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 114–120 | Cite as

A consistent but non-coincident visual pattern facilitates the learning of spatial relations among locations

  • Scott S. Katz
  • Michael F. Brown
  • Bradley R. Sturz
Brief Report


Human participants searched in a dynamic three-dimensional computer-generated virtual-environment open-field search task for four hidden goal locations arranged in a diamond configuration located in a 5 × 5 matrix of raised bins. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: visual pattern or visual random. All participants experienced 30 trials in which four goal locations maintained the same spatial relations to each other (i.e., a diamond pattern), but this diamond pattern moved to random locations within the 5 × 5 matrix from trial to trial. For participants in the visual pattern group, four locations were marked in a distinct color and arranged in a diamond pattern that moved to a random location independent of the hidden spatial pattern from trial to trial throughout the experimental session. For participants in the visual random group, four random locations were marked with a distinct color and moved to random locations independent from the hidden spatial pattern from trial to trial throughout the experimental session. As a result, the visual cues for the visual pattern group were consistent but not coincident with the hidden spatial pattern, whereas the visual cues for the visual random group were neither consistent nor coincident with the hidden spatial pattern. Results indicated that participants in both groups learned the spatial configuration of goal locations and that the presence of consistent but noncoincident visual cues facilitated the learning of spatial relations among locations.


Virtual environment Open field Spatial pattern Visual cues Facilitation 



This research was conducted following the relevant ethical guidelines for human research and was supported in part by funds from the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies at Georgia Southern University to B.R.S. We thank K.D.B. for his Excel wizardry and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on a previous version. Correspondence may be addressed to Bradley R. Sturz, Department of Psychology, Georgia Southern University, P.O. Box 8041, Statesboro, GA 30460 USA; Email:


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott S. Katz
    • 1
  • Michael F. Brown
    • 2
  • Bradley R. Sturz
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Georgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA
  2. 2.Villanova UniversityVillanovaUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA

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