Previous work from our laboratory has demonstrated that rats display a preference for directional responding over true place navigation in the Morris water task. The present study evaluated the range of situations in which this preference is observed and attempted to identify methods that favor navigation to the precise location of the escape platform in the room. A preference for directional responding over place navigation was observed in a wide range of procedures that included providing extensive training (Experiment 1), providing only platform placement experience in the absence of active swim training (Experiment 2), training navigation to multiple platform locations in a moving platform variant of the task (Experiment 3), and explicitly training navigation to a precise location in the room, versus navigation in a particular direction, regardless of the pool's position in the room (Experiments 4-5). A modest preference for navigation to the precise spatial location of the platform was observed when the pool wall was virtually eliminated as a source of control by filling it to the top with water (Experiment 6).
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