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Reorientation in the real world: The development of landmark use and integration in a natural environment

Alastair Smith, Iain Gilchrist, Kirsten Cater, Naimah Ikram, Kylie Nott, Bruce Hood, Reorientation in the real world: The development of landmark use and integration in a natural environment. Cognition, 107(3). ISSN 0010-0277, pp. 1102–1111. February 2008. PDF, 288 Kbytes.

Abstract

An influential series of studies have argued that young children are unable to use landmark information to reorient. However, these studies have used artificial experimental environments that may lead to an underestimation of the childrena??s ability. We tested whether young children could reorient using landmarks in an ecologically valid setting. Children aged between 3 and 7 years completed a reorientation task in open parkland, and the properties of the search array (size and distinctiveness) were manipulated in a within-subjects design. Responses were recorded using Global Positioning Systems technology. All age groups performed above chance level, demonstrating that young children can reorient using natural landmarks. This behaviour was modulated by the nature of the search array: children were more accurate when the locations were spaced in a large array, and when the search locations were distinctively coloured. This suggests that the integration between landmarks and search locations, at different spatial scales, is a key factor in characterising human reorientation in the real world.

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