In this paper a series of studies and theoretical proposals about how preexposure to environmental cues affects subsequent spatial learning are reviewed. Traditionally, spatial learning had been thought to depend on gestaltic non-associative processes, and well established phenomena such as latent learning or instantaneous transfer have been taken to provide evidence for this sort of cognitive mapping. However, reviewing the literature examining these effects reveals that there is no need to advocate for gestaltic processes since standard associative learning theory provides an adequate framework for accounting for navigation skills. Recent studies reveal that attentional processes play a role in spatial learning. The need for an integrated attentional and associative approach to explain spatial learning is discussed.