Allocentric coding: Spatial range and combination rules

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Abstract

When a visual target is presented with neighboring landmarks, its location can be determined both relative to the self (egocentric coding) and relative to these landmarks (allocentric coding). In the present study, we investigated (1) how allocentric coding depends on the distance between the targets and their surrounding landmarks (i.e. the spatial range) and (2) how allocentric and egocentric coding interact with each other across targets-landmarks distances (i.e. the combination rules). Subjects performed a memory-based pointing task toward previously gazed targets briefly superimposed (200 ms) on background images of cluttered city landscapes. A variable portion of the images was occluded in order to control the distance between the targets and the closest potential landmarks within those images. The pointing responses were performed after large saccades and the reappearance of the images at their initial location. However, in some trials, the images’ elements were slightly shifted (±3°) in order to introduce a subliminal conflict between the allocentric and egocentric reference frames. The influence of allocentric coding in the pointing responses was found to decrease with increasing target-landmarks distances, although it remained significant even at the largest distances (≥10°). Interestingly, both the decreasing influence of allocentric coding and the concomitant increase in pointing responses variability were well captured by a Bayesian model in which the weighted combination of allocentric and egocentric cues is governed by a coupling prior.

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