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Coding Locations Relative to One or Many Landmarks in Childhood

Negen, J; Bou Ali, L; Chere, B; Roome, HE; Park, Y; Nardini, M

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J Negen

L Bou Ali

B Chere

HE Roome

Y Park


Cognitive development studies how information processing in the brain changes over the course of development. A key part of this question is how information is represented and stored in memory. This study examined allocentric (world-based) spatial memory, an important cognitive tool for planning routes and interacting with the space around us. This is typically theorized to use multiple landmarks all at once whenever it operates. In contrast, here we show that allocentric spatial memory frequently operates over a limited spatial window, much less than the full proximal scene, for children between 3.5 and 8.5 years old. The use of multiple landmarks increases gradually with age. Participants were asked to point to a remembered target location after a change of view in immersive virtual reality. A k-fold cross-validation model-comparison selected a model where young children usually use the target location’s vector to the single nearest landmark and rarely take advantage of the vectors to other nearby landmarks. The comparison models, which attempt to explain the errors as generic forms of noise rather than encoding to a single spatial cue, did not capture the distribution of responses as well. Parameter fits of this new single- versus multi-cue model are also easily interpretable and related to other variables of interest in development (age, executive function). Based on this, we theorize that spatial memory in humans develops through three advancing levels (but not strict stages): most likely to encode locations egocentrically (relative to the self), then allocentrically (relative to the world) but using only one landmark, and finally, most likely to encode locations relative to multiple parts of the scene.


Negen, J., Bou Ali, L., Chere, B., Roome, H., Park, Y., & Nardini, M. (2019). Coding Locations Relative to One or Many Landmarks in Childhood. PLoS Computational Biology, 15(10), Article e1007380.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 4, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 28, 2019
Publication Date Oct 30, 2019
Deposit Date Sep 26, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 1, 2019
Journal PLoS Computational Biology
Print ISSN 1553-734X
Electronic ISSN 1553-7358
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 10
Article Number e1007380


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Copyright Statement
Copyright: © 2019 Negen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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