Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Different "Routes" to a Cognitive Map: Dissociable Forms of Spatial Knowledge Derived from Route and Cartographic Map Learning

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Different "Routes" to a Cognitive Map: Dissociable Forms of Spatial Knowledge Derived from Route and Cartographic Map Learning

Article excerpt

Published online: 21 May 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract An important, but as yet incompletely resolved, issue is whether spatial knowledge acquired during navigation differs significantly from that acquired by studying a cartographic map. This, in turn, is relevant to understanding the generalizability of the concept of a "cognitive map," which is often likened to a cartographic map. On the basis of previous theoretical proposals, we hypothesized that route and cartographic map learning would produce differences in the dynamics of acquisition of landmark-referenced (allocentric) knowledge, relative to view-referenced (egocentric) knowledge. We compared this model with competing predictions from two other models linked to route versus map learning. To test these ideas, participants repeatedly performed a judgment of relative direction (JRD) and a scene- and orientation-dependent pointing (SOP) task while undergoing route and cartographic map learning of virtual spatial environments. In Experiment 1, we found that map learning led to significantly faster improvements in JRD pointing accuracy than did route learning. In Experiment 2, in contrast, we found that route learning led to more immediate and greater improvements overall in SOP accuracy, as compared to map learning. Comparing Experiments 1 and 2, we found a significant three-way interaction effect, indicating that improvements in performance differed for the JRD versus the SOP task as a function of route versus map learning. We interpreted these findings as suggesting that the learning modality differentially affects the dynamics of how we utilize primarily landmark-referenced versus view-referenced knowledge, suggesting potential differences in how we utilize spatial representations acquired from routes versus cartographic maps.

Keywords Spatial navigation . Spatial memory . Route learning . Map learning . Spatial knowledge


How we acquire spatial knowledge of our surrounding environment is critical to understanding how we navigate and orient ourselves within the world. During navigation, we often employ routes that we have learned during previous exploration of an environment to arrive at our intended goal, referred to as "route knowledge." We may also employ a more "map"-like representation of the environment, often referred to as a "cognitive map," allowing us to make inferences about the directions and distances of landmarks within the environment (O'Keefe & Nadel, 1978; Siegel & White, 1975; Tolman, 1948). We may acquire map-like knowledge either through extensive navigation of an environment or by studying a cartographic map, the result of which is often referred to as "survey knowledge" (Appleyard, 1970;Siegel&White,1975; Thorndyke & Hayes-Roth, 1982; Wolbers & Büchel, 2005). This dichotomy between route and survey knowledge forms the underpinning of a number of different influential theoretical models in spatial cognition (O'Keefe & Nadel, 1978;Siegel&White, 1975) and in cognitive neuroscience (Hartley, Maguire, Spiers, & Burgess, 2003; Iaria, Petrides, Dagher, Pike, & Bohbot, 2003; Packard & McGaugh, 1996).

Although there is generally little debate that we can acquire spatial knowledge via multiple modalities (Montello, Waller, Hegarty, & Richardson, 2004), including via navigation and cartographic maps, whether and how knowledge acquired from these two different modalities differs remains unresolved (Chrastil, 2013; Evans & Pezdek, 1980;Montelloetal.,2004; Shelton & Gabrieli, 2002; Shelton & McNamara, 2004; Taylor & Tversky, 1992; Wolbers & Büchel, 2005;Zhang, Copara, & Ekstrom, 2012).

Several behavioral studies have suggested that map learn- ing may provide more direct access to survey knowledge than does navigation (Ruddle, Payne, & Jones, 1997;Thorndyke& Hayes-Roth, 1982). These findings also support the idea that the survey representation is the final element in a hierarchy of acquisition of spatial knowledge (Siegel & White, 1975). …

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