Staircases as contextual cues that help minimize energetic costs

Rosemeyer, Meike (2021). Staircases as contextual cues that help minimize energetic costs. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Staircase climbs are habitually avoided, and staircase steepness is overestimated. Visual impressions of
staircase slant reliably precede each taxing climb and may act as salient, visual cues, prompting behaviour
that supports an ‘economy of action’ (Proffitt, 2006). The thesis adapted the contextual cueing paradigm
with natural scenes (cf. Brockmole & Henderson, 2006b) to test for search and learning biases by scene
content with staircases. For this, target letters, L and T, were placed near and far from staircases, and in
scenes without staircases (three stimulus categories). Eighteen scenes were repeated across blocks, six of
each stimulus category. Response latencies and eye movements were recorded.
Chapter three investigated search biases in initial eye movements in response to the first presentation of
novel, natural scenes of the three stimulus categories. Findings support the notion that early eye
movements were biased towards the incidental scene content of staircases in 36 novel real-world scenes
(N = 118); this bias was magnified for staircases with more steps, independent of target locations. Chapter
two investigated contextual cueing by content of 18 natural scenes, six of each category, repeated across
eight blocks (N = 64); for 27 of these participants, target locations were changed relative to staircase
location in the ninth block. Steeper learning slopes across the eight repetitions were observed for targets
located near staircases compared to the other stimulus categories. Interruptions to learning, due to
changes in target locations in the ninth block, were a function of the distance to staircase location pre and
post changes, consistent with the observed differential learning. Interruptions were equally strong within
and between two nine-block learning sessions (N = 40) that were separated by a 24-hour break. This
additional finding is obtained from a subsequent contextual cueing study, presented in chapter four, and
speaks to a major involvement of episodic memory in the learning reported in this thesis. In sum, the
findings highlight a capacity of staircase percepts to bias initial visual search, and to facilitate short- and
longer-term associative learning near staircases. Overall, the results suggest staircases may be salient
stimuli for cognitive processes that manage energetic resources.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Sport & Exercise Science
School or Department: School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Bupa UK Foundation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology


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