Developing Global and Local Cognitive Maps through Path Integration
This study investigated whether people can develop a global representation of local environments by path integration. Participants learned objects' locations in two misaligned rectangular rooms in an immersive virtual environment. After learning, they adopted a local view in one room and judged directions of objects inside the same room; the views in two consecutive trials were from different rooms and locally or globally consistent (priming task). Participants were either teleported
... 1) or they locomoted (Experiment 2) between the rooms during learning and then finished the priming task. In Experiment 3, participants learned directions of five buildings before locomoting within and between the two rooms. During testing, after the priming task, participants pointed to the buildings while adopting local views inside rooms (across-boundary pointing task). Participants' estimated global headings were calculated from their responses to the buildings. Experiments 4 and 5 replicated Experiments 3 and 2 respectively except that participants locomoted between the rooms through a hallway, which minimized piloting cues. Results showed only a local priming effect in Experiments 1, 2 and 5, only a global priming effect in Experiment 4, and both local and global priming effects in Experiment 3. Consistent with the global priming effect, participants' estimated global headings were also accurate in Experiments 3 and 4. These results suggest that people can develop a global cognitive map of two local environments by path integration; prior global representation may be important to integrating local spaces into a global map; both the global and local representations can be separately developed to multiscale cognitive maps, although this may require significant cognitive resources.