What makes a landmark effective? Sex differences in a navigation task

Abstract

In Experiment 1, two groups of female rats were trained in a triangular pool to find a hidden platform whose location was defined in terms of a single a landmark, a cylinder outside the pool. For one group, the landmark had only a single pattern (i.e., it looked the same when approached from any direction), while for the other, the landmark contained four different patterns (i.e., it looked different when approached from different directions). The first group learned to swim to the platform more rapidly than the second. Experiment 2 confirmed this difference when female rats were trained in a circular pool but found that male rats learned equally rapidly (and as rapidly as females trained with the single-pattern landmark) with both landmarks. This second finding was confirmed in Experiment 3. Finally, in Experiment 4a and 4b, male and female rats were trained either with the same, single-pattern landmark on all trials or with a different landmark each day. Males learned equally rapidly (and as rapidly as females trained with the unchanged landmark) whether the landmark changed or not. We conclude that male and female rats learn rather different things about the landmark that signals the location of the platform.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

References

  1. Arain, M., & Cohen, J. (2013). Hierarchical use of cues in the missing object recognition task by rats. Behavioural Processes, 97, 41–52.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Chamizo, V. D., & Rodríguez, C. A. (2012). Qualitative sex differences in spatial learning. In S. P. McGeown (Ed.), Psychology of gender differences (pp. 267–281). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Choi, J., & Silverman, I. (2003). Processes underlying sex differences in route-learning strategies in children and adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 1153–1166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Cole, M. R., Gibson, L., Pollack, A., & Yates, L. (2011). Potentiation and overshadowing of shape by wall color in a kite-shaped maze using rats in a foraging task. Learning and Motivation, 42, 99–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Coluccia, E., & Louse, G. (2004). Gender differences in spatial orientation: A review. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24, 329–340.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Galea, L. A. M., & Kimura, D. (1993). Sex differences in route learning. Personality and Individual Differences, 14, 53–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Graham, M., Good, M. A., McGregor, A., & Pearce, J. P. (2006). Spatial learning based on the shape of the environment is influenced by properties of the objects forming the shape. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 32, 44–59.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Heil, M., & Jansen-Osmann, P. (2008). Sex differences in mental rotation with polygons of different complexity: Do men utilize holistic processes whereas women prefer piecemeal ones? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61, 683–689.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Horne, M. R., & Pearce, J. M. (2011). Potentiation and overshadowing between landmarks and environmental geometric cues. Learning & Behavior, 39, 371–382.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Jansen-Osmann, P., & Heil, M. (2007). Suitable stimuli to obtain (no) gender differences in the speedof cognitive processes involved in mental rotation. Brain and Cognition, 64, 217–227.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Jones, C. M., Braithwaite, V. A., & Healy, S. D. (2003). The evolution of sex differences in spatial ability. Behavioral Neuroscience, 117, 403–411.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Mackintosh, N. J. (1973). Stimulus selection: Learning to ignore stimuli that predict no change in reinforcement. In R. A. Hinde & J. S. Hinde (Eds.), Constraints on learning (pp. 75–96). London: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Mackintosh, N. J. (2011). IQ and human intelligence (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. McGregor, A., Horne, M. R., Esber, G. R., & Pearce, J. M. (2009). Absence of overshadowing between a landmark and geometric cues in a distinctively shaped environment: A test of Miller and Shettleworth (2007). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 35, 357–370.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Morris, R. G. M. (1981). Spatial localization does not require the presence of local cues. Learning and Motivation, 12, 239–260.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Pearce, J. M., Graham, M., Good, M. A., Jones, P. M., & McGregor, A. (2006). Potentiation, overshadowing and blocking of spatial learning based on the shape of the environment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 32, 201–214.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Pecchia, T., Gagliardo, A., & Vallortigara, G. (2011). Stable panoramic view facilitates snapshot like memories for spatial reorientation in homing pigeons. PLoS One, 6, e22657.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Pecchia, T., & Vallortigara, G. (2012). Spatial reorientation by geometry with freestanding objects and extended surfaces: A unifying view. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279, 2228–2236.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Rodríguez, C. A., Chamizo, V. D., & Mackintosh, N. J. (2011). Overshadowing and blocking between landmark learning and shape learning: The importance of sex differences. Learning & Behavior, 39, 324–335.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Rodríguez, C. A., Chamizo, V. D., & Mackintosh, N. J. (2013). Do hormonal changes that appear at the onset of puberty determine the strategies used by female rats when solving a navigation task? Hormones and Behavior, 64, 122–135.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Rodríguez, C. A., Torres, A. A., Mackintosh, N. J., & Chamizo, V. D. (2010). Sex differences in the strategies used by rats to solve a navigation task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 36, 395–401.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Torres, M. N., Rodríguez, C. A., Chamizo, V. D., & Mackintosh, N. J. (2014). Landmark vs. geometry learning: Explaining female rasts’ selective preference for a landmark. Psicológica, 35, 81–100.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Vallortigara, G. (1996). Learning of colour and position cues in domestic chicks: Males are better at position, females at colour. Behavioural Processes, 36, 289–296.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Williams, C. L., & Meck, W. H. (1991). The organizational effects of gonadal steroids on sexually dimorphic spatial ability. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 16, 155–176.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a grant from the Spanish ‘Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación’ (Ref. PSI2010-20424) to V. D.Chamizo.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to V. D. Chamizo or N. J. Mackintosh.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Chamizo, V.D., Rodríguez, C.A., Torres, I. et al. What makes a landmark effective? Sex differences in a navigation task. Learn Behav 42, 348–356 (2014). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-014-0152-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Rat
  • Spatial learning
  • Acquisition
  • Sex differences
  • Landmark learning