Overshadowing of geometric cues by a beacon in a spatial navigation task

Edward S Redhead, Derek A Hamilton, Matthew O Parker, Wai Chan, Craig Allison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In three experiments, we examined whether overshadowing of geometric cues by a discrete landmark (beacon) is due to the relative saliences of the cues. Using a virtual water maze task, human participants were required to locate a platform marked by a beacon in a distinctively shaped pool. In Experiment 1, the beacon overshadowed geometric cues in a trapezium, but not in an isosceles triangle. The longer escape latencies during acquisition in the trapezium control group with no beacon suggest that the geometric cues in the trapezium were less salient than those in the triangle. In Experiment 2, we evaluated whether generalization decrement, caused by the removal of the beacon at test, could account for overshadowing. An additional beacon was placed in an alternative corner. For the control groups, the beacons were identical; for the overshadow groups, they were visually unique. Overshadowing was again found in the trapezium. In Experiment 3, we tested whether the absence of overshadowing in the triangle was due to the geometric cues being more salient than the beacon. Following training, the beacon was relocated to a different corner. Participants approached the beacon rather than the trained platform corner, suggesting that the beacon was more salient. These results suggest that associative processes do not fully explain cue competition in the spatial domain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-191
JournalLearning & Behavior
Issue number2
Early online date24 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


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