Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Clinical Neuropsychology, General Psychology, Memory, Neuroscience.

Description: The two (same chain) large grocery stores near my neighbourhood have been undergoing renovations over the past 2 months. In both cases this has involved changes in the layout of each store and the relocation of where particular things can be found. I used to know both of these stores well. I could easily find almost everything I usually buy when grocery shopping. Not anymore! Other than bread still being on the left wall and produce being on the right wall in one of the stores and the opposite in the other nothing else is where I remember it being. I have been amazed at how disorienting this has been. On more than one occasion I have walked right past the section I was looking for (and my eyesight is pretty good, no man-looking jokes please!). Given this you can understand why the title of the article linked below caught my eye. How do our brains process location information especially in places where we are familiar with what we expect to find even if we are not sure where we will find it. Interested? The research discussed in the article linked below also speaks to possible new ways to look at Alzheimer’s and other memory related disorders associated with aging.

Source: Ever been lost in the grocery store? Researchers are closer to knowing why it happens, ScienceDirect.

Date: November 16, 2021

Image by itkannan4u from Pixabay

Article Link:

We seem to adapt to our world with the help of a brain that seeks and notes similarities. However, when we need to see similar things in distinct locations (as the researcher participants in the described study were asked to do) that similarity seeking could trip us up. What do we do? We make use of what the searchers call a repulsion maneuver where we treat similar things (e.g., branch outlets in different cities) and completely distinct or different. This could be a way that we adjust our adaptation to our environment when our similarity seeking tendencies will get in our way. It also helps explain why my grocery shopping has been such a perplexing and disorienting activity recently. I am hoping the renovations will be over soon!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might a tendency to note similarities help us manage our experiences in the world?
  2. When might a focus on similarities get in the way of us comfortably adapting to our environment?
  3. What might the research discussed in the linked article have to offer in terms of our understanding of memory disorders like Alzheimer’s?

References (Read Further):

Zheng, L., Gao, Z., McAvan, A. S., Isham, E. A., & Ekstrom, A. D. (2021). Partially overlapping spatial environments trigger reinstatement in hippocampus and schema representations in prefrontal cortex. Nature communications, 12(1), 1-15. Link

Ekstrom, A. D., Huffman, D. J., & Starrett, M. (2017). Interacting networks of brain regions underlie human spatial navigation: a review and novel synthesis of the literature. Journal of neurophysiology, 118(6), 3328-3344. Link

Epstein, R. A., Patai, E. Z., Julian, J. B., & Spiers, H. J. (2017). The cognitive map in humans: spatial navigation and beyond. Nature neuroscience, 20(11), 1504-1513. Link

Do, T. T. N., Lin, C. T., & Gramann, K. (2021). Human brain dynamics in active spatial navigation. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1-12. Link

Joho, D., Senk, M., & Burgard, W. (2009). Learning Wayfinding Heuristics Based on Local Information of Object Maps. In ECMR (pp. 117-122). Link

Foxall, G. R., & Hackett, P. M. (1992). Consumers’ perceptions of micro-retail location: wayfinding and cognitive mapping in planned and organic shopping environments. International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 2(3), 309-327. Link

Grunert, K. G., Zhou, Y., Banovic, M., & Loebnitz, N. (2021). Supermarket competence in emergent markets: Conceptualization, measurement, effects, and policy implications. Journal of Consumer Affairs. Link