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Synonyms

Cognitive mapping; Spatial memory

Definition

Spatial learning refers to the process by which an organism acquires a mental representation of its environment. Spatial learning has been found in both vertebrate and invertebrate species.

Theoretical Background

The first systematic studies of learning by psychologists such as Thorndike, Skinner, and Pavlov concentrated on simple stimulus–response (SR) or stimulus–stimulus (SS) connections. In such a framework, an animal would learn to associate a neutral stimulus with a biologically relevant one (classical or Pavlovian conditioning) or would associate a behavior with its outcome (operant conditioning).

However, when an animal learns its position in space, such simple associative processes are not sufficient to explain how organisms learn locations. The organism then usually forms some sort of representation of the environment consisting of the relationship of specific stimuli in the environment to the animal and to each other.

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References

  • Cheng, K. (1986). A purely geometric module in the rat’s spatial representation. Cognition, 23, 149–178.

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  • Cheng, K., Shettleworth, S. J., Huttenlocher, J., & Rieser, J. (2007). Bayesian integration of spatial information. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 625–637.

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  • O’Keefe, J., & Nadel, L. (1978). The hippocampus as a cognitive map. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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  • Olton, D. S., & Samuelson, R. J. (1976). Remembrance of places passed: Spatial memory in rats. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 2, 1–16.

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  • Tolman, E. C. (1948). Cognitive maps in rats and men. Psychological Review, 55, 189–208.

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Further Reading

  • Hermner, L., & Spelke, E. S. (1994). A geometric process for spatial representation in young children. Nature, 370, 57–59.

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Correspondence to David R. Brodbeck .

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© 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

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Brodbeck, D.R. (2012). Spatial Learning. In: Seel, N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_44

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_44

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Boston, MA

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-4419-1427-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-4419-1428-6

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