The cognitive representation of the large-scale environment

Smith, Pauline (Psychometric consultant)

June 1985

Thesis or dissertation

© 1985 Pauline (Psychometric consultant) Smith. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This thesis is concerned with the processes involved in the acquisition and use of cognitive representations of the large-scale environment, or 'cognitive mapping'. The first half of the thesis reviews relevant literature in three main sections. Firstly, the historical roots of the subject are described in chapters on early investigations of wayfinding and orientation, theoretical models of behaviour incorporating the concept of subjective knowledge and multidisciplinary studies of environmental images. Secondly, studies of group differences in cognitive mapping and initial theoretical frameworks are reviewed. Finally, the current state of research evidence is assessed in relation to four research areas. These concern methodological issues, the structure of internal representations, the process of acquiring new representations and individual differences in cognitive mapping.

The remainder of the thesis reports and discusses four experimental studies of issues which were judged to be inadequately researched on the basis of the literature review. The first compared the utility of freehand sketch-mapping and three-dimensional modelling with educated, adult subjects. The second investigated the rate of acquisition of cognitive maps, particularly during the first days of environmental experience; using a structured mapping task. Objective accuracy, subjective ratings of accuracy and recall order were examined in relation to building usage and spatial experience. The third experiment compared artificial map learning with spatial relations ability, visual imagery ratings and everyday map usage. Additionally, the effect upon learning of stimulus mode (map or verbal list), response mode and stimulus-response mode compatibility was measured. The final experiment compared performance upon the 'real-life' mapping task of the second study with the map learning and spatial ability measures used in the third study. Evidence was found that cognitive mapping. spatial ability and attitudes to navigational problems are positively related. It was concluded that future work should emphasize the process of cognitive mapping and the relationship between map form and practical needs.

Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
Bartram, David
Sponsor (Organisation)
Social Science Research Council (Great Britain)
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