Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.
Jill and Lisa are two close friends who met in college. Since they live in different cities, they don't get to visit each other as often as they used to. After Jill gave birth to her first daughter, Lisa decided to pay her a visit. Once she arrived in town and picked up a gift for the new baby, Lisa called Jill to get directions to her house. Without putting in much effort, Jill was able to tell Lisa exactly how to get to her house from the boutique where she bought the gift. Jill did not have to look at a map or use any other aids to give directions; it was all done from memory. But how was she able to do this? To answer this question, we must explore the concept of cognitive maps.
A cognitive map is a mental picture or image of the layout of one's physical environment. The term was first coined by a psychologist named Edward Tolman in the 1940s. Cognitive maps can help us navigate unfamiliar territory, give directions, and learn or recall information. When we create cognitive maps, we often omit information that is irrelevant to the task at hand. This means that they can differ from the actual environment we are mapping.
An error occurred trying to load this video.
Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.
You must cCreate an account to continue watching
Register to view this lesson
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 84,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.
Get unlimited access to over 84,000 lessons.Try it now
Already registered? Log in here for accessBack
Let's look at the Jill and Lisa example a bit more closely. Jill has taken in multiple signals and cues from her environment, which allowed her to create a cognitive map of routes to her house. So when Lisa asked Jill for directions to her house, Jill was able to create a mental image of the street names, businesses, and landmarks along the way and relate that information to Lisa. This mental representation is a cognitive map.
Humans are not the only animals that have this ability. For example, Tolman conducted a research study using rats and determined that rats use cognitive maps to find where rewards in a maze are located. This suggests that rats are able to create and use cognitive maps to help them navigate their environment.
Suppose Jill and Lisa went out to eat to a restaurant during their visit. Jill had to go to the bathroom to change her baby's diaper, so she asked her waitress where it was located. The waitress tells her that to get to the bathroom she needs to follow the path with the red carpet and make a right when she sees the tall plant. The waitress was using a cognitive map to tell Jill how to get to the bathroom.
Once Jill came back from the bathroom, she asked Lisa about the new house that she and her husband purchased. Lisa was able to describe the layout of it in great detail, including where the bedrooms, kitchen, and dining rooms are, the structure of the basement, and where the porch wraps around the house. Lisa was able to describe her house using a cognitive map.
A cognitive map is a mental picture or image of the layout of one's physical environment. The term was first coined by a psychologist named Edward Tolman in the 1940s. Cognitive maps can help us navigate unfamiliar territory, give directions and learn or recall information. When we create cognitive maps, we often omit information that is irrelevant to the task at hand.
Friends Jill and Lisa were able to communicate several things through the use of cognitive maps. Jill gave Lisa directions on how to get to her house since Lisa was unfamiliar with the area. She had already created a mental image of the street names, businesses and landmarks along the way and was able to relate that information to Lisa. Also, Lisa was able to describe the layout of her new house and structure of the various rooms by using a cognitive map.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack
Cognitive Map: Definition and Examples
Related Study Materials
Explore our library of over 84,000 lessons
- College Courses
- High School Courses
- Other Courses
- Create a Goal
- Create custom courses
- Get your questions answered