Behavior at the Choice Point: Decision Making in Hidden Pathway Maze Learning

Elizabeth Thomas, Peter J Snyder, Robert H Pietrzak, Paul Maruff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Hidden pathway maze learning tasks (HPMLTs) have been used in neuropsychological research and practice for more than 80 years. These tasks require the use of visual and auditory task feedback signals to learn the order and direction of a pathway, typically within a grid of stepping-stones, or alleys. Hidden pathway maze learning tasks are purported to assess both visuospatial learning and executive processes. The original motivation for the HPMLT paradigm for humans was to reduce a complex tactual planning task to one in which decisions could be directly measured by discrete actions at choice points guided by visual cues. Hidden maze learning paradigms were used extensively throughout the 20th century, initially to study exploratory, anticipatory, and goal-related behavior within the context of memory research, and later as an experimental tool in neuropsychology. Computerization of HPMLTs have allowed for the measurement of different move categories according to the rule structure and ipso facto, clinically meaningful differences in memory and monitoring functions during spatial search and learning. Hidden pathway maze learning tests have been used to understand the cognitive effects of ageing, neurological disorders, and psychopharmacological challenges. We provide a review of historical antecedents relevant to contemporary applications of HPMLTs in neuropsychology. It is suggested that contemporary applications of HPMLTs could be advanced by analysis of component operations necessary for efficient performance that can inform theoretical interpretations of this class of tests in clinically meaningful terms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-536
Number of pages23
JournalNeuropsychology Review
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Executive functions
  • Goal-related behavior
  • Hidden pathway maze learning
  • Spatial memory
  • Trial-and-error learning

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