Impact of path parameters on maze solution time.

M. V. Chafee, B. B. Averbeck, D. A. Crowe, A. P. Georgopoulos


In order to compare spatial attention and visual processing capabilities of humans and rhesus macaques, we developed a visual maze task both could perform. Maze stimuli were constructed of orthogonal line segments displayed on a monitor. Each was octagonal in outline and contained a central square (the 'start box'). A single ('main') path, containing a random number of turns, extended outward from the start box, and either reached an exit in the maze's perimeter, or a blind ending within the maze. Subjects maintained ocular fixation within the start box, and indicated their judgment whether the path reached an exit or not by depressing one of two keys (humans) or foot pedals (monkeys). Successful maze solution by human subjects required a minimum viewing time. Replacing the maze with a masking stimulus after a variable interval revealed that the percent correct performance increased systematically with greater viewing time, reaching a plateau of approximately 85% correct if mazes were visible for 500 ms or more. A multiple linear regression analysis determined that the response time of both species depended upon several parameters of the main path, including the number of turns, total length, and exist status. Human and nonhuman primates required comparable time to process each turn in the path, whereas monkeys were faster than humans in processing each unit of path length. The data suggest that a covert analysis of the maze proceeds from the center outward along the main path in the absence of saccadic eye movements, and that both monkeys and humans undertake such an analysis during the solution of visual mazes.

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