A cognitive map ( mental map or mental model) is a type of mental representation which serves an individual to acquire, code, store, recall, and decode information about the relative locations and attributes of phenomena in their everyday or metaphorical spatial environment. The concept was introduced by Edward Tolman in 1948.

Cognitive maps have been studied in various fields, such as nlp, psychology, education, archaeology, planning, geography, cartography, architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, management and history. As a consequence, these mental models are often referred to, variously, as cognitive maps, mental maps, scripts, schemata, and frames of reference.

Cognitive maps serve the construction and accumulation of spatial knowledge, allowing the “mind’s eye” to visualize images in order to reduce cognitive load, enhance recall and learning of information. This type of spatial thinking can also be used as a metaphor for non-spatial tasks, where people performing non-spatial tasks involving memory and imaging use spatial knowledge to aid in processing the task.

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