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    An Examination of the Influence of Landmarks in Human Spatial Navigation Using a Virtual Water Maze


    Thornberry, Conor (2019) An Examination of the Influence of Landmarks in Human Spatial Navigation Using a Virtual Water Maze. Masters thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    Abstract

    Research into spatial memory and navigation excelled with the invention of the Morris Water Maze (Morris, 1984). In this task animals are required to find a platform, hidden somewhere in a large circular pool of water (below surface level). As animals cannot see the goal directly, they must use various cues in the environment to locate it and escape. Research has shown that landmarks exert control over an animal’s navigation ability. Recently, the Commins Lab has developed a virtual version of the Morris water maze task for use with humans; NavWell. This thesis established that the spatial behaviour of human participants navigating in NavWell is also controlled by virtual landmarks. In Experiment 1, participants trained to navigate with two landmarks, searched inaccurately during a recall trial with no landmarks and landmarks rotated 180°. However, does the visual saliency of these landmarks (e.g. brightness) influence our ability to recall a goal location during navigation? In Experiments 2, 3 & 4, we examined this question. In Experiment 2, participants were trained with a bright landmark near the target and a dim landmark far from the target. Participants were then examined with one cue in isolation or both. The group with the dim landmark searched incorrectly compared to the bright group. In Experiment 3, we controlled for brightness by switching the bright and dim landmark positions. Participants with the bright landmark searched incorrectly, but the dim group searched in the correct quadrant of the pool. In a final experiment, brightness was removed as a feature completely. Participants were trained with two landmarks of equal brightness levels. Here, the group with the landmark nearest the platform searched more accurately. The evidence for an associative learning model of human navigation, as well as the importance of proximity as a nontangible influence for landmark preference were then discussed.

    Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
    Keywords: Influence of Landmarks; Human Spatial; Navigation; Virtual Water Maze;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Psychology
    Item ID: 12556
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2020 17:08
    URI:

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