Spatial reorientation with a geometric array of auditory cues

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2022 Feb;75(2):362-373. doi: 10.1177/1747021820913295. Epub 2020 Apr 6.


A visuocentric bias has dominated the literature on spatial navigation and reorientation. Studies on visually accessed environments indicate that, during reorientation, human and non-human animals encode the geometric shape of the environment, even if this information is unnecessary and insufficient for the task. In an attempt to extend our limited knowledge on the similarities and differences between visual and non-visual navigation, here we examined whether the same phenomenon would be observed during auditory-guided reorientation. Provided with a rectangular array of four distinct auditory landmarks, blindfolded, sighted participants had to learn the location of a target object situated on a panel of an octagonal arena. Subsequent test trials were administered to understand how the task was acquired. Crucially, in a condition in which the auditory cues were indistinguishable (same sound sample), participants could still identify the correct target location, suggesting that the rectangular array of auditory landmarks was encoded as a geometric configuration. This is the first evidence of incidental encoding of geometric information with auditory cues and, consistent with the theory of functional equivalence, it supports the generalisation of mechanisms of spatial learning across encoding modalities.

Keywords: auditory cues; functional equivalence; geometry; relative and absolute metric; spatial reorientation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cues*
  • Space Perception
  • Spatial Learning
  • Spatial Navigation*