Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Where Am I? How Our Brain Works As A GPS Device

Date:
January 12, 2009
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
The results of a new study in Psychological Science reveal that the brain does not have a distinct preference for certain cues during reorientation. These findings indicate that the brain takes into account a number of factors, including the environment and our past experiences, while determining the best way to reorient us to our surroundings.

We've all experienced the feeling of not knowing where we are. Being disoriented is not pleasant, and it can even be scary, but luckily for most of us, this sensation is temporary. The brain employs a number of tricks to reorient us, keeping our confusion to a minimum and quickly pointing us in the right direction.

Research has suggested that animals and young children mainly rely on geometric cues (e.g. lengths, distances, angles) to help them get reoriented.

Human adults, however, can also make use of feature cues (e.g. color, texture, landmarks) in their surrounding area. But which method do we use more often? Psychologists Kristin R. Ratliff from the University of Chicago and Nora S. Newcombe from Temple University conducted a set of experiments investigating if human adults have a preference for using geometric or feature cues to become reoriented.

The first experiment took place in either a large or small white, rectangular room with a landmark (a big piece of colorful fabric) hanging on one wall. The study volunteers saw the researcher place a set of keys in a box in one of the corners. The volunteers were blindfolded and spun around, to become disoriented. After removing the blindfold, they had to point to the corner where the keys were.

After a break, the volunteers were told the experiment would be repeated, although they wouldn't watch the researcher hide the keys. Unbeknownst to them, during the break the researchers moved the landmark to an adjacent wall—this change forced the volunteers to use either geometric cues or feature cues, but not both, to reorient themselves and locate the keys. For the second experiment, the researchers used a similar method, except they switched room sizes (the volunteers moved from a larger room to a smaller room and vice versa) during the break.

The results, reported in Psychological Science, reveal that the brain does not have a distinct preference for certain cues during reorientation. In the first experiment, volunteers reoriented themselves by using geometric cues in the smaller room but used feature cues in the larger room. However, the volunteers who went from the larger room to the smaller room in the second experiment also relied on feature cues, searching for the landmark to become reoriented.

During the second experiment, the researchers surmise, the volunteers had a positive experience using feature cues in the large room, so they kept on relying on the landmark in the smaller room to become reoriented. These findings indicate that the brain takes into account a number of factors, including the environment and our past experiences, while determining the best way to reorient us to our surroundings.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ratliff et al. Reorienting When Cues Conflict: Evidence for an Adaptive-Combination View. Psychological Science, 2008; 19 (12): 1301 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02239.x

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Where Am I? How Our Brain Works As A GPS Device." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090109173203.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2009, January 12). Where Am I? How Our Brain Works As A GPS Device. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090109173203.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Where Am I? How Our Brain Works As A GPS Device." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090109173203.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How The 'Angelina Jolie Effect' Increased Cancer Screenings

How The 'Angelina Jolie Effect' Increased Cancer Screenings

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) Angelina's Jolie's decision to undergo a preventative mastectomy in 2013 inspired many women to seek early screenings for the disease. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Cost of Ebola

The Cost of Ebola

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 18, 2014) As Sierra Leone prepares for a three-day "lockdown" in its latest bid to stem the spread of Ebola, Ciara Lee looks at the financial implications of fighting the largest ever outbreak of the disease. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins