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Behav Processes. 2009 Mar;80(3):339-43. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2008.11.007. Epub 2008 Nov 24.

What is geometric information and how do animals use it?

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Department of Psychology, Brescia University College, 1285 Western Rd, London, ON N6G1H2, Canada.


Unlike investigations of animals' use of spatial cues such as landmarks, studies of sensitivity to the geometry of surfaces in an enclosure have proceeded mostly as an attempt to explain a laboratory finding with few direct tests of how animals use such a cue in nature. In this brief review, I discuss the current debate over whether global or local information from the enclosure drives the typical rotational error pattern in such studies. A consideration of the form and function of geometric cues in natural settings suggests that the natural boundaries for which arena walls are considered analogous might better be thought as landmarks. With a clearer picture of what geometric information is and how it might be used in nature, the generality of findings from laboratory studies of geometry enclosure can be better assessed.

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