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The Difficulty of Effectively Using Allocentric Prior Information in a Spatial Recall Task

Negen, J.; Bird, L.A.; King, E.; Nardini, M.

The Difficulty of Effectively Using Allocentric Prior Information in a Spatial Recall Task Thumbnail


J. Negen

E. King


Prior information represents the long-term statistical structure of an environment. For example, colds develop more often than throat cancer, making the former a more likely diagnosis for a sore throat. There is ample evidence for effective use of prior information during a variety of perceptual tasks, including the ability to recall locations using an egocentric (self-based) frame. However, it is not yet known if people can use prior information effectively when using an allocentric (world-based) frame. Forty-eight adults were shown sixty sets of three target locations in a sparse virtual environment with three beacons. The targets were drawn from one of four prior distributions. They were then asked to point to the targets after a delay and a change in perspective. While searches were biased towards the beacons, we did not find any evidence that participants successfully exploited the prior distributions of targets. These results suggest that allocentric reasoning does not conform to normative Bayesian models: we saw no evidence for use of priors in our cognitively-complex (allocentric) task, unlike in previous, simpler (egocentric) recall tasks. It is possible that this reflects the high biological cost of processing precise allocentric information.


Negen, J., Bird, L., King, E., & Nardini, M. (2020). The Difficulty of Effectively Using Allocentric Prior Information in a Spatial Recall Task. Scientific Reports, 10, Article 7000.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 10, 2020
Online Publication Date Apr 24, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Mar 24, 2020
Publicly Available Date May 5, 2020
Journal Scientific Reports
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Article Number 7000


Published Journal Article (2.9 Mb)

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