Evidence against integration of spatial maps in humans

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Abstract

A dynamic 3-D virtual environment was constructed for humans as an open-field analogue of Blaisdell and Cook's (2005) pigeon foraging task to determine if humans, like pigeons, were capable of integrating separate spatial maps. Participants used keyboard keys and a mouse to search for a hidden goal in a 4×4 grid of raised cups. During Phase 1 training, a goal was consistently located between two landmarks (Map 1: blue T and red L). During Phase 2 training, a goal was consistently located down and left of a single landmark (Map 2: blue T). Transfer trials were then conducted in which participants were required to make choices in the presence of the red L alone. Cup choices during transfer assessed participants' strategies: association (from Map 1), generalization (from Map 2), or integration (combining Map 1 and 2). During transfer, cup choices increased to a location which suggested an integration strategy and was consistent with results obtained with pigeons. However, additional analyses of the human data suggested participants initially used a generalization strategy followed by a progressive shift in search behavior away from the red L. This shift in search behavior during transfer was responsible for the changes in cup choices across transfer trials and was confirmed by a control condition. These new analyses offer an alternative explanation to the spatial integration account proposed for pigeons.

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