Effects of Spatial Food Distribution on Search Behavior in Rats (Rattus norvegicus)

Francesca Foti, Francesca Spirito, Laura Mandolesi, Marco Aversano, Laura Petrosini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To analyze how search strategies are adapted according to the geometric distribution of food sources, the authors submitted rats to a search task in which they had to explore 9 food trays in an open field and avoid visiting already-depleted trays. Trays were spatially arranged in 4 independent configurations: a cross, a 3 × 3 matrix, 3 clusters of 3 trays each, and a random configuration. Rats exhibited differential search efficiency as a specific effect of the susceptibility of the configurations to being explored in a principled way: Crosses were first, matrices or clusters were in the middle, and random configurations were last. Although no exhaustive searches or highly principled patterns were observed in any of the configurations, performances improved as the sessions went by. Thus, structural affordances of the environment influence the construction not only of search strategies but also of information linked to where the reward is.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-299
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of comparative psychology (Washington, D.C. : 1983)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


  • clusters
  • navigation
  • search patterns
  • spatial cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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