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Simona Garobbio, Marcia Bécu, Youssouf I. Cherifi, Denis Sheynikovich, Angelo Arleo; Impact of development on spatial cue processing. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):1852. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.1852.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
When we navigate in urban environments, we face multiple landmarks incorporated in street-like layouts with varying geometry. Young adults are known to prefer landmarks to reorient in space, whereas older adults preferentially rely on geometric cues. On the other side of the lifespan, young children also prefer geometry, but little is known about how spatial cue processing changes during development. This study investigates what types of spatial cues (landmarks vs. geometry) are used by children of different ages when bearings are lost. So far, 24 children (9-11 yo, 13 males) were included in the study. Children were requested to solve a goal-oriented navigation task by finding an invisible goal in a rectangular virtual environment. A 3D-immersive virtual reality headset allowed children to freely move in space and integrate multisensory percepts as in near-naturalistic conditions. After 8 learning trials, the whole configuration of landmarks was rotated, creating a conflict between landmark and geometry cues. Subsequently, children’s cue preference for spatial orientation was tested during 5 probe trials. Data show that 50% of the children spontaneously reoriented according to the geometric shape of the environment, whereas the others preferred landmarks. Task performances were comparable between the two groups, suggesting that goal location coding based on geometry or landmark cues was equally efficient. Data also suggest that visual exploratory behavior during learning could predict cue preference in test phase. These results suggest that children of 9-11 years of age are in the middle of development in terms of spatial cue processing, and therefore predict specific cue-preference patterns for younger and older children. This prediction is currently being tested in a follow-up study in our laboratory. This work will help to infer the psychometric function describing the relation between spatial cue preference and age during development.
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