Spatial reorientation by geometry with freestanding objects and extended surfaces: a unifying view

Tommaso Pecchia, Giorgio Vallortigara


The macroscopic, three-dimensional surface layout geometry of an enclosure apparently provides a different contribution for spatial reorientation than the geometric cues associated with freestanding objects arranged in arrays with similar geometric shape. Here, we showed that a unitary spatial representation can account for the capability of animals to reorient both by extended surfaces and discrete objects in a small-scale spatial task. We trained domestic chicks to locate a food-reward from an opening on isolated cylinders arranged either in a geometrically uninformative (square-shaped) or informative (rectangular-shaped) arrays. The arrays were located centrally within a rectangular-shaped enclosure. Chicks trained to access the reward from a fixed position of openings proved able to reorient according to the geometric cues specified by the shape of the enclosure in all conditions. Chicks trained in a fixed position of opening with geometric cues provided both by the arena and the array proved able to reorient according to each shape separately. However, chicks trained to access the reward from a variable position of openings failed to reorient. The results suggest that the physical constrains associated with the presence of obstacles in a scene, rather than their apparent visual extension, are crucial for spatial reorientation.

  • Received December 1, 2011.
  • Accepted December 12, 2011.
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