Effect of reference frames and number of cues available on the spatial orientation of males and females in a virtual memory task
The aim of this study was to examine the influence of the number of cues and cue location in human spatial learning. To assess their importance, subjects performed variants of a virtual task called “The Boxes Room”. Participants were trained to locate, in a computer-generated environment with 16 boxes, the rewarded boxes through 8 trials. In experiment I, the number of distal cues available was zero, one, two or the standard arrangement (seven cues). In experiment II, place navigation was compared based on distal landmarks (extra-maze cues placed on the walls) and proximal landmarks (proximal cues placed between the boxes). The results of experiment I demonstrated that one cue in the room is enough to obtain a good performance in the task. Experiment II showed that groups using proximal cues were slower and less accurate than groups using distal cues. In addition, our data suggest that men are better navigators than women, as they found the rewarded boxes sooner and committed fewer errors in both studies. These results indicate that performance can change depending on the number and location of available cues.