Spatial representation

Navigation and Space


Research team: Prof. Iain Gilchrist, Prof. Bruce Hood, Dr. Josie Briscoe, Kate Longstaffe.

Collaborators: Dr. Alastair D. Smith (Nottingham), Dr. Liz Pellicano (Institute of Education, UCL), Dr. Kirsten Cater (UoB/ Hewlett Packard)

The foraging roomAt the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre (BCDC) we are studying the development of foraging behaviour in children and teenagers. When hearing the word ‘foraging’, we tend to think of animals searching for nuts or berries. However, searching and navigating in large spaces are skills that we all use everyday in the modern world, from hunting for a lost bunch of keys to finding your way to a friend’s house.

We will be testing these abilities in a specially designed foraging room (see picture above right). Embedded into the floor of this room are lights, which can be turned on to form different displays for participants to explore. In the centre of each green light is a switch. Your job is to search the room for a hidden red light, by pressing each switch until you find the one that changes from green to red when pressed.

We will record different aspects of search behaviour, such as the time it takes you to find the red light, and we will also track the routes you take to find the red switch. This will give us some idea of the types of strategies you might use when searching in large-scale space.

People who take part in our study will also carry out several other activities including matching words to pictures, solving problems similar to puzzles, and a computer based task of visual search. The skills measured by these tasks might relate to how you search in the foraging room.

We are also working with people with various backgrounds, including children with autism, people with Williams syndrome, and people born very prematurely. Gaining a better picture of how children and teenagers develop their foraging skills will allow us to understand better the strengths and weaknesses of different people. We hope that this research will enable us to devise strategies to help people who might experience difficulties when they are navigating or searching in every-day environments. If you would like more information, please feel free to contact us.

Phone: 0117 954 6613

Acknowledgements: This project is supported by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the Experimental Psychology Society.