Indexed on: 06 Jan '12Published on: 06 Jan '12Published in: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
Multiple spatial cues are utilized to orient with respect to the environment, but it remains unclear why feature (i.e., objects in the environment) and geometric (i.e., shape of the environment) cues are differentially influenced by enclosure size, and the extent to which local (i.e., wall lengths and corner angles) and global (i.e., principal axis of space) geometric cues are influenced by enclosure size. In the present study, we investigated the extent to which environmental size influenced the use of corner angle (i.e., a local geometric cue) and the principal axis of space (i.e., a global geometric cue) for reorientation. We developed an orientation task that allowed the manipulation of enclosure size during training and the isolation of the use of the principal axis of space during testing. Participants were trained to respond to a location in either a small or a large trapezoid-shaped enclosure uniquely specified by both local (i.e., wall lengths and corner angles) and global (i.e., principal axis of space) geometric cues. During testing, we presented both groups with a small and large rectangle (to assess the use of principal axis of space) and a small and large parallelogram (to asses relative use of corner angles and the principal axis of space when in conflict). Enclosure size influenced the relative use of corner angles but not of the principal axis of space. Results suggest that corner angles function like features and that changes in the use of feature cues are the source of the relative reliance on feature and geometric cues during changes of enclosure size.