Environmental Scaling Influences the Use of Local but Not Global Geometric Cues During Spatial Reorientation

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During spatial reorientation, the use of local geometric cues (e.g., corner angles) and global geometric cues (e.g., principal axis) is differentially influenced by enclosure size. Local geometric cues exert more influence in large enclosures compared to small enclosures, whereas the use of global geometric cues is not influenced by changes in enclosure size. Such effects are suggested to occur because of differences in training enclosures sizes or differences in testing enclosure sizes, but investigations of enclosure-size effects on spatial cue use have been confounded by environmental scaling between training and testing. We trained participants in a trapezoid-shaped enclosure to respond to a corner uniquely specified by both local and global geometric cues and tested participants in a rectangle (isolating the use of global geometric cues) and in a parallelogram (placing local and global geometric cues in conflict). Between groups, participants experienced different training environment sizes but identical testing environment sizes or identical training environment sizes but different testing environment sizes, and this allowed categorization with respect to the direction of environmental scaling. We found that environmental scaling between training and testing size (but not training size differences or testing size differences) influenced the relative use of local geometric cues. The use of global geometric cues was not influenced by enclosure size. Results challenge prior explanations of the influence of enclosure size on relative spatial cue use during spatial reorientation.

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