A Comparative examination of the use of metric information in spatial orientation and navigation

Emily Raewyn Batty
In daily life, both animals and humans are often faced with the task of returning to previously visited locations. In many cases, an organism must be able to (1) establish a directional frame of reference and (2) determine location based on surrounding cues in order to solve this problem. Moreover, successful navigation is generally thought to rely on how an organism learns and uses the metric relationships between various locations in its environment. This thesis examines various factors that
more » ... rious factors that affect the way animals encode and use metric information in their environment, both to orient and to navigate. A transformation approach is used to determine what aspects of metric information are learned and/or preferred. Additionally, this thesis follows a comparative approach in order to examine similarities and differences among species. In chapter 2, I show that two closely related species of chickadees differently use geometric and featural information when establishing a directional frame of reference. I suggest that ecological factors, but not rearing condition, affect the way that chickadees preferentially use metric or featural information to orient. In chapter 3, I used a similar paradigm to show that a pre-existing directional frame of reference can interact with rats' use of metric cues to navigate. More specifically, chapter 3 shows that experience gained through training procedures affects the way that rats use metric information in a navigation task. Chapter 4 expands upon this idea, and shows that pigeons encode directional metric differently based on their past experience. Finally, in chapter 5, I examined the flexibility of use of metrics by comparing how search strategies of human adults and children can change based on a goal's proximity to an edge. To summarize, this thesis shows that use of metric information is malleable and situation-specific and can be affected by a variety of factors including ecology, past experience and boundary information. Acknowledgements
doi:10.7939/r33b07 fatcat:uxizhjo4rvbwth4rlq4d2fvd74