Attachment Dimensions and Spatial Navigation in Female College Students: The Role of Comfort With Closeness and Confidence in Others

Front Psychol. 2019 Feb 19;10:235. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00235. eCollection 2019.


There is preliminary evidence suggesting that hippocampal functioning is associated with attachment style. However, it is unknown if attachment is also associated with hippocampal-related cognitive function such as spatial learning and recall. This study aims to verify if attachment dimensions are associated with spatial learning and recall. Sixty-five female participants were recruited and were evaluated using the Adult Attachment Scale-R and tested on a virtual maze navigation task (VMT) at one moment (exploratory trial + 3 trials) and 24 h later (3 trials). There was a significant Moment × Trial × Close-Depend interaction for the outcome time, F(2,126) = 3.807, p = 0.025, with post hoc analysis indicating that the High Close-Depend group displayed significant improvements between Trial 1 and Trial 3 in the post-test assessment. Conversely, the Low Close-Depend group displayed significant improvements between Trial 1and Trial 3 but on the pre-test assessment. Furthermore, the Low Close-Depend group presented significant better performance in pre-test Trial 3 in comparison to the High Close-Depend group. Thereby, it seems that low comfort with proximity and trust in others is associated with reduced spatial recall, although spatial learning performance was actually superior in these participants. It is possible that reduced exposure to social interaction and meaningful relationships may be reduced in the Low Close-Depend group, leading to modifications in hippocampal function and, ultimately, reduced spatial recall. Oppositely, participants in the High Close-Depend group may not display typical spatial learning in the proposed task as they are more willing to freely explore the presented environment.

Keywords: attachment; hippocampus; spatial learning; spatial navigation; spatial recall.