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If you can locate a target by using one reliable source of information, why would you use an unreliable one? A similar question has been faced in a recent study on homing pigeons, in which, despite the presence of better predictors of the goal location, the slope of the floor in an arena dominated the searching process. This piece of evidence seems to contradict straightforward accounts of associative learning, according to which behavior should be controlled by the stimulus that best predicts the reward, and has fueled interest toward one question that, to date, has received scarce attention in the field of spatial cognition: how are vertical spaces represented? The purpose of this communication is to briefly review the studies on this issue, trying to determine whether slope is a special cue—driving behavior irrespective of other cues—or simply a very salient one.
Nardi, Daniele, "Does terrain slope really dominate goal searching?" (2012). Faculty Research and Creative Activity. 20.