Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Reorientation Task

One approach to studying navigational and spatial abilities of agents is to study their behavior in controlled environments. In the reorientation task (Cheng, 1986), an agent is typically placed within a rectangular arena.  Reinforcement is typically provided at one of the corner locations in the arena.  That is, the agent is free to explore the arena, and eventually finds a reward at a location of interest – it learns that this is the “goal location”.  The agent is then removed from the arena, disoriented, and returned to (often different) arena, with the task of using the available cues to relocate the goal.  Of particular interest are experimental conditions in which the arena has been altered from the one in which the agent was originally trained. Systematic errors in performing this task have been used to argue for a module that processes relational or geometric cues.


  1. Cheng, K. (1986). A purely geometric module in the rat's spatial representation. Cognition, 23, 149-178.

(Added September 2010)