The Emergent Nature of Alignment Effects in Spatial Learning and Memory

Student Name: 
Elliot Clark
UCD Department: 
Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology
UCD Mentor: 
Dr. Arne D. Ekstrom,

Alignment effects were found to have an emergent nature. Individual differences in the data across participants of two spatial memory experiments were analyzed to find an accurate period in which alignment effects begin to occur. In Experiment 1, participants navigated to goals in a large-scale, virtual environment interspersed with a pointing task to assess spatial memory. The procedure for Experiment 2 was identical to that of Experiment 1, but added an additional task in which participants learn the environment to criteria with a map before exploring the environment. In both experiments, there was a significant difference in performance levels on the pointing task between aligned trials and misaligned trials, but only after repeated exposure to the environment. Though alignment effects are well documented in the literature, little is known about brief period when they manifest. The results confirm that alignment effects are not expected initially, after brief experience, but rather that they arise after learning.