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Mental Maps

  • By: Alexander Klippel
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The term mental map refers to the cognitive representation of environmental information that a human being acquires through different (direct and indirect) sources. The term was first used by Edward Tolman in 1948 to refer to the mental representation of spatial layouts learned by rats to find food in a labyrinth. The term is synonymous with the terms cognitive map and spatial mental representation. The latter expression is a more neutral term offered in response to the criticism that the map metaphor is too restrictive and provides the incorrect impression that environmental information is indeed mentally stored in a maplike format. Nonetheless, the term mental or cognitive map is still widely used. The criticism and discussion of the map metaphor was particularly active in the ...

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