All of us face misunderstandings and perception discrepancies, but what is the reason? The visual environment, natural objects and human actions are interpreted differently by different people. Information in our brain about thing, events and notions is organized in some structural schemes called “cognitive maps”. They help us to systemize knowledge and easily extract it in the process of analyzing and interpretation of new, unknown events or things. It is meaningful to study how to understand, visualize and organize our cognitive maps. So the theme of cognitive mapping deserves attention and thoroughly research.
Definition of Cognitive Mapping For understanding of the term “cognitive map” we should firstly define the meaning of “cognition”. From psychological point of view “cognition” refers to the mental models (belief systems), that people use to interpret, frame, simplify, and make sense of otherwise complex problems. These mental models are concerned in terms of cognitive maps, scripts, schema, and frames of reference. Such belief systems are built from past experiences and comprise internally represented concepts and relationships among concepts that an individual can then use to interpret new events.
This is essentially important, for example, in the situation, when some company deals with complex problems like innovation. In that case decision-makers could rarely process all the information that would be relevant. So mental models can help decision-makers to select information and to decide what actions are appropriate. In general words a cognitive map may be defined as "an overall mental image or representation of the space and layout of a setting", which means that the act of cognitive mapping is "the mental structuring process leading to the creation of a cognitive map". And cognitive mapping may be defined as a process composed of a series of psychological transformations by which an individual acquires, codes, stores, recalls, and decodes information about the relative locations and attributes of phenomena in their everyday spatial environment.
History and Use of the Term Cognitive map is the term used to refer to one's internal representation of the experienced world. Cognitive mapping includes the various processes used to sense, encode, store, decode, and use this information. Cognitive maps are invariably incomplete and partially distorted, features that can be revealed in external representations or in spatial behaviors. Firstly, Edward Tolman inferred the existence of cognitive maps by recording the spatial behavior of a maze-running rat who took a "short cut" to the final destination by running across the top of a maze instead of following a route through it.
Recognition of this "place learning" activity stimulated multidisciplinary research in spatial knowledge acquisition. In city planning Kevin Lynch used sketch maps to reveal human knowledge of large-scale complex environments. Geographers researched the nature of "mental maps" via revealed place preference, subjective distance and configurationally (layout) representation using non-metric multidimensional scaling (MDS) and layout matching (spatial congruence) techniques.
The methods used to assess spatial knowledge and examine how it is created have multiplied as researchers from anthropology, psychology, disability studies, artificial intelligence, computer science, and geography have explored assessment methods including pointing (for direction and orientation), interpoint distance examination (for spatial structure and layout and geometry), landmark learning, location/place hierarchies based on anchor point concepts, path integration (short-cutting and spatial updating), piloting (landmark navigation), chunking (route learning), "look-back strategies" (place fixing), verbalizing acquired knowledge (spatial linguistics) and other methods that use repeated behaviors to reveal and assess the spatial information contained in long-term memory ( in cognitive maps).
Figure1. Neil Cohn “Cognitive Map of Graphic Signs” (Emaki Productions: www.emaki.net)
Figure2. Food system without reduction of nitrogen (Ziervogel G. “Toolkit for Vulnerability and Adaptation Training”)
The Process of Cognitive Mapping Cognitive mapping is a neuropsychological process, with both conscious and unconscious aspects. Cognitive maps can be generated with or without conscious intent, and they are not always self-intimating. "Although the cognitive map represents a set of processes of unknown physiological and controversial psychological nature," write Downs and Stea, "its effect and function are clear. We believe that a cognitive map exists if an individual behaves as if a cognitive map exists." In “An evolutionary function of the depressive reaction: the cognitive map hypothesis”, Hans Welling explores the idea that depression may motivate a period of reduced activity after a major loss and allow a necessary time out, during which cognitive structures and inadequate cognitive maps can be updated for altered circumstances.
Most of human action is based on habits. They are not pondered but executed automatically, based on experience and knowledge about the (social) environment and the individual’s capacities. Knowledge about physical capacities, social resources and the ongoing relation with them is represented in cognitive maps and schemas. These cognitive maps contain knowledge like: how fast can I move, I can count on the help of a friend if necessary, my husband will bring the children to school on Monday and Wednesday; an enormous amount of information about the environment that is used in automatic day-to-day functioning.
It is difficult to appreciate how pervasive the use of these maps is; since automatic functioning is designed to liberate attention, most of its working is unconscious. But it is precisely when change occurs that these behavior patterns are being noticed. Everybody who has temporarily lost the use of a hand has become suddenly aware of the hundreds of things that cannot be executed normally or automatically.
Simple actions, such as preparing or eating food, dressing or even sitting down, suddenly have to be monitored carefully for them to be carried out without accidents. This example may also serve to illustrate that introducing changes in cognitive structures will take considerable time, since cognitive maps form an extensive network, where the elements of the individual’s environment and existing resources are included numerous times. If a resource disappears, all relevant acts and behaviors in which this resource is present have to be updated.
Different Types of Cognitive Map and Mapping Techniques While cognitive maps can be created and modified by conscious intent, they also arise and operate without conscious intent, manifested in cognitive structures reflecting values, emotions, behaviors, etc. Cognitive mapping is an umbrella term encompassing, for example, causal, semantic, and concept mapping — all of which refer to types of mental model or schema — and more precise topologic refinements are possible. Samsonovich and Ascoli examine conceptual value maps to represent a human value system with a cognitive map beyond spatial and temporal dimensions. Different kinds of cognitive maps, they write, can be "distinguished on the basis of the semantics they represent (logic, values, feelings) and on the representation systems they map (e.g., one may distinguish contextual and conceptual cognitive maps)".
Figure3. Different kinds of cognitive maps Cognitive mapping techniques People like using graphical structures to help make sense of information. In psychology, "cognitive map" is a term developed by Tolman to describe an individual's internal mental representation of the concepts and relations among concepts. This internal mental representation is used to understand the environment and make decisions accordingly. Cognitive maps are regarded as "internally represented schemas or mental models for particular problem-solving domains that are learned and encoded as a result of an individual's interaction with their environment".
Therefore, cognitive maps provide a presentation for what is known and believed, and exhibit the reasoning behind purposeful actions. In contrast, cognitive mapping techniques are used to identify subjective beliefs and to portray these beliefs externally. The general approach is to extract subjective statements from individuals, within a particular problem domain, about meaningful concepts and relations among these concepts, and then to describe these concepts and relations in some kind of graphical layout. The outcome of a cognitive mapping technique is usually referred to as a cognitive map. Causal mapping.
Causal mapping is one of the most commonly used cognitive mapping techniques in investigating the cognition of decision makers in organizations. Causal mapping is derived from personal construct theory. This theory posits that an individual's set of perspectives is a system of personal constructs and individuals use their own personal constructs to understand and interpret events.
In other words, an individual understands the environment with salient concepts (constructs), which can be expressed by either simple single-polar phrases or contextually rich bipolar phrases. An example of single-polar phrase is "good reader", while an example of bipolar phrase is "good computer skills - poor computer skills". As revealed by its name, a causal map represents a set of causal relationships among constructs within a belief system. Through capturing the cause effect relationships, insights into the reasoning of a particular person are acquired.
Figure4. Causal map (Manzoni J-F, Barsoux J-L. “Are Your Subordinates Setting You Up to Fail?”MIT Sloan Management Review) Semantic mapping It must be pointed out that causal assertions are only part of an individual's total belief system. There are some cognitive mapping techniques that can be used to identify other relations among concepts. Semantic mapping, also known as idea mapping, is used to explore an idea without the constraints of a superimposed structure.
To make a semantic map, one starts at the center of the paper with the main idea, and works outwards in all directions, producing a growing and organized structure composed of key words and key images. Around the main idea (a central word), five to ten ideas (child words) that are related to the central word are drawn. Each of these "child" words then serves as a sub-central word for the next level drawing. In other words, a semantic map has one main or central concept with tree-like branches.
Figure5. Semantic map showing osteoporosis knowledge (Hernandez-Rauda and Martinez-Garcia BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders) Concept mapping Another popular cognitive mapping technique is called concept mapping. David Ausubel emphasized on the importance of prior knowledge in being able to learn about new concepts. Drawing on this theory, Novak concludes that existing cognitive structures are critical for learning new concepts.
A concept map is a graphical representation where nodes represent concepts, and links represent the relationships between concepts. The links, with labels to represent the type of relationship between concepts, can be one-way, two-way, or non-directional. The concepts and the links may be categorized, and the concept map may show temporal or causal relationships between concepts. Concept mapping is useful in generating ideas, designing a complex structure, communicating complex ideas, aiding learning by explicitly integrating new and old knowledge, as well as assessing understanding or diagnosing misunderstanding
Application of cognitive techniques and maps Form the psychological point of view cognitive mapping techniques aim to provide a tool for revealing peoples' subjective beliefs in a meaningful way so that they can be examined not only by the individual for whom the map is constructed, but also by other individuals and groups. The resultant cognitive map will not represent an entire belief system but hopes to portray those beliefs that are the most significant. Mapping techniques use different methods to elicit from an individual key concepts and relationships among concepts and to construct a map for that individual.
So it helps to reveal and understood the differences among individuals. Another potential use of cognitive mapping techniques is in the business sphere. Cognitive maps allow decision-makers in companies to look at maps that have been constructed for other stakeholders so that they can begin to understand and appreciate alternative perspectives on the problem. An advantage of cognitive mapping techniques is that they allow knowledge to be externalized in some sort of visio-spatial layout that is then open for critical reflection. Cognitive mapping techniques for organizational analysis include: simple content analysis of text, the use of repertory grid techniques, the systematic coding of cause and effect relationships, special interviewing techniques, computer software analyses of interview data and argument mapping.
All cognitive mapping techniques reveal concepts that people hold to be important but they vary in terms of the nature of the relationships among concepts that they identify. Some only look at simple categories whilst others aim to reveal deeper underlying arguments. At the surface level, techniques such as content analysis identify key concepts by looking at how frequently particular words are used in written or verbal statements. At a deeper level, techniques such as the repertory grid technique can be used to identify both the content and the structure of an individual's personal frame of reference.
Repertory grid techniques work by first identifying concepts and then clustering concepts together in order to reveal underlying dimensions The aim of causal techniques is to identify the key elements of a person's beliefs about a particular problem and to describe the cause and effect relationships among these elements. The mapping of cause-effect relationships has attracted particular attention, mainly from strategy researchers but also from practitioners.
Conclusion Cognitive mapping is a process inherent for any person. Different knowledge about surrounding, things, feeling and phenomena are presented in our brain in a form of so called “cognitive maps”. There are different approaches to understanding and classification of the main terms related to cognitive mapping. Also we can distinguish a number of types of maps on the basis of the semantics they represent or on the representation systems. The main techniques for cognitive maps’ visualization are causal, semantic and concept mapping.
Cognitive mapping processes are applicable to any sphere of our life: self-cognition and socialization, business planning and development, psychological analysis and teambuilding, decision-making and self-organization. The right implementation of cognitive mapping techniques helps us to increase efficiency of business, know ourselves deeper and attain better understanding of people around us.