Place learning in humans: The role of distance and direction information

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Although the process of establishing a memory of a location is necessary for navigation, relatively little is known about the information that humans use when forming place memories. We examined the relative importance of distance and angular information about landmarks in place learning. Participants repeatedly learned a target location in relation to three distinct landmarks in an immersive computer-generated (virtual) environment. Later, during testing, they attempted to return to that location. The configurations of landmarks used during testing were altered from those participants learned in order to separate the effects of metric distance information and information about inter-landmark angles. In general, participants showed greater reliance on distance information than angular information. This reliance was affected by nonmetric relationships present during learning, as well as by the degree to which the learned environment contained right or straight angles.

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