The Development of Spatial Cognition

The Development of Spatial Cognition

The Development of Spatial Cognition

The Development of Spatial Cognition

Excerpt

The 1973 publication of Image and Environment edited by Roger Downs and David Stea shortly followed in 1975 by Alexander Siegel and Shepard White's seminal paper on the spatial representation of large scale-environments signaled the advent of a decade of intense and sustained interest in spatial cognition. The present book represents a statement of the state of the art in a very important aspect of spatial cognition, its development. Of course there were antecedents to this sudden increase of attention. One important one was Kevin Lynch's book, Image of the City (1960). Another was Piaget's classic work on children's spatial cognition reflected in the Child's Conception of Space (1956) and his measurement of their spatial egocentrism with the well known three-mountain problem. However, the considerable research activity which started at the time was probably attributable to a happy conjunction of several trends. From the practical side were the pressures of those years for making basic research relevant. Spatial cognition is an excellent arena in which to do this. Spatial orientation is a pervasive facet of our everyday life and in spite of over a hundred years of systematic work on space perception researchers could say little about how we knew where in the world we were. At the same time the problem of spatial orientation is constrained enough and sufficiently subject to experimental control that there is promise of fundamental understanding. From the theoretical side, cognitive psychology was well into the information processing era with the potential of the very detailed and analytic studies characteristic of that approach. At the same time from the theoretical side there were initial signs of dissatisfaction with the artificial and relatively rigid constraints of much of the work done from that point of view. In this context the study of spatial cognition became an attractive focus.

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