There are many theories that explain how route knowledge is acquired. We examined here if the sequence of elements that are part of a route can become integrated into a single unit, to the extent that the processing of individual transitions may only be relevant in the context of this entire unit. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants learned a route for ten blocks. Subsequently, at test they were intermittently exposed to the same training route along with a novel route which contained partial overlap with the original training route. Results show that the very same stimulus, appearing in the very same location, requiring the very same response (e.g., left turn), was responded to significantly faster in the context of the original training route than in the novel route. In Experiment 3, we employed a modified paradigm containing landmarks and two matched routes which were both substantially longer and contained a greater degree of overlap than the routes in Experiments 1 and 2. Results were replicated, namely, the same overlapping route segment, common to both routes, was performed significantly slower when appearing in the context of a novel than the original route. Furthermore, the difference between the overlapping segments was similar to the difference observed for the non-overlapping segments, i.e., an old route segment in the context of a novel route was processed as if it were an entirely novel segment. We discuss the results in relation to binding, chunking, and transfer effects, as well as potential practical implications.
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