A modular geometric mechanism for reorientation in children

Although disoriented young children reorient themselves in relation to the shape of the surrounding surface layout, cognitive accounts of this ability vary. The present paper tests three theories of reorientation: a snapshot theory based on visual image-matching computations, an adaptive combination theory proposing that diverse environmental cues to orientation are weighted according to their experienced reliability, and a modular theory centering on encapsulated computations of the shape of the extended surface layout. Seven experiments test these theories by manipulating four properties of objects placed within a cylindrical space: their size, motion, dimensionality, and distance from the space’s borders. Their findings support the modular theory and suggest that disoriented search behavior centers on two processes: a reorientation process based on the geometry of the 3D surface layout, and a beacon-guidance process based on the local features of objects and surface markings. Ó 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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