Three Theories: Cognitive Mapping

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Cognitive mapping is an essential part of cognitive psychology studies. The importance of this issue is predetermined by a direct connection of cognitive mapping with a person’s memory and mental health. It plays an important role in a person’s ability to navigate in the surrounding environment. Thus, the investigation of cognitive mapping results in obtaining a deeper understanding of human cognitive activity and clarifying the hidden aspects of a person’s memory system functioning. This paper is aimed at making an overview of cognitive mapping theories, discovering the effect of cognitive mapping on the understanding of memory, and observing the influence of brain injury on information retrieval.

The term cognitive mapping is widely used nowadays in various spheres of life – social, cultural, geographical. In general sense, cognitive mapping is the person’s mental activity directed to constructing in mind the things that exist in the environment. Cognitive maps form a matrix of the person`s understanding of the world around them, which describes the way of how people experience the environment – both external and internal. These maps contain information about landmarks, routes, objects, and places. Sternberg suggested that the cognitive map is the internal representation of the environment that is centered on spatial relationships (Sternberg, 2006, p.261). Moreover, this environment can be either existing or imagined and not necessarily present. There are physical, social, cultural and other kinds of environments that exist in past memories or the present positions (Colledge & Stimson, 1997, p. 234). During the process of cognitive mapping, a person structure interprets and copy information, and as a result, a cognitive map is created. In its turn, such a map is an individual model of the world in which a person lives. Cognitive maps play an important role in behaviors, both spatial and non-spatial (Colledge & Stimson, 1997, 238). There are four domains included in a person`s cognitive map: recognition, prediction, evaluation, and action (Kaplan, 1973).

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The term cognitive map was applied by Tolman. He was conducting experiments with rats and came to the conclusion that the process of learning “consists not in stimulus-response connections but in the building up in the nervous system of sets which function like cognitive maps” (Tolman, 1948). Tolman also performed experiments with rats. At the same time, he noticed the significance of his conclusions for men`s mental health.

There is a number of cognitive mapping theories, and as three of them, theories of analogy can be proposed for discussion. The first is the Analogical Constraint Mapping Engine theory, the second is the Structure-mapping Engine theory, and the third is the Incremental Analogy Machine theory. Analogical thinking plays an important role in cognitive activity. According to Keane and Duff, there are two computations that appear in the process of analogical mapping making. First is the computation where the corresponding concepts in the two domains are matched. The second one is where the part of one domain is transferred to the other and forms the basis for analogical inferences (Keane & Duff, 1994).

The first theory operates by finding the optimal mapping between domains, which is done with the help of a parallel limitation satisfaction in a network constructed for each analogical problem. This model creates a network comprising several points that are directed to represent a link between two assertions. Such connections implement many limitations.

The Structure-Mapping Engine theory uses a serial approach while implementing both structural and similarity limitations. Such a theory aims at gathering notions in two domains and making a conclusion based on them. After the combination of different results, the model proposes two alternative interpretations and constructs all possible variants for a given comparison between two domains (Keane & Duff, 1994). This model produces many interpretations of analogical mapping. Each alternative is rated that gives the possibility to choose the most appropriate one.

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The Incremental Analogy Machine theory implements informational and behavioral limitations by using the serial approach as well. A single, optimal interpretation is generated by proposing all the possible mappings between domains and building them one after the other into a single one (Keane & Duff, 1994).

It should be mentioned that cognitive mapping affects the understanding of memory. The memory of the past events including information needed for cognitive mapping influences the present actions of a person (Reisberg, 2013, p.220). O`Keefe and Nadel suggested that there are different types of memory, with each type being related to different kinds of information. In its turn, this information is localized in many neural systems (O`Keefe & Nadel, 1978, p.373). Each memory area is responsible for a different form of information storage. For example, such an area as the hippocampus is responsible for the construction and accumulation of cognitive maps.

The cognitive map theory states that the hippocampus creates a mental representation of the environment, which is more flexible than other mental perceptions of space and allows a person to create different routes between places (Jacobs & Schenk, 2003). Apart from this, McNamara and Shelton (n.d.) also suggested that the hippocampus is involved in the process of navigation and is responsible for creating cognitive maps of the environment. They stated that navigation between already known routes do not require the flexible application of the past experiences, and, therefore, in this process, the hippocampus is not used. On the contrary, finding the new routes depends on the memorial functions in which the hippocampus is specialized (McNamara & Shelton, n.d.). According to other researchers, spatial models of the hippocampus apply a computational approach to the question of how the rodent hippocampus depicts the space (Jacobs & Schenk, 2003). The information about objects, places in the environment, and the relationships among objects and their locations is stored in the hippocampus.

It is necessary to point out, that the link between hippocampal damage and certain forms of memory defects is undeniable. Hippocampal damage can disrupt spatial tasks and produce fault assertions regarding nonspatial tasks. Thus, hippocampal damage can affect spatial memory performance. According to O`Keefe and Nadel, the primary effect of the dysfunction in the local system of the hippocampus would be the loss of the two functions that depend on the cognitive maps: exploration and place learning (p.100). Limitations of working memory can result in the loss of information and produce errors in analogizing. When working memory is overcharged, there is a strong possibility for a part of the information and performance of some spheres to disappear from the memory (Keane & Duff, 1994). The damage in a hippocampal area is a cause of mental disorders. Many forms of amnesia are followed by defects in face memory and verbal short-term memory (O`Keefe & Nadel, 1978, p.411).

The three main types of models of amnesic defects are distinguished. The first type discusses the general defects in memory storing as the main cause of amnesia. According to the second model, there is a defect in retrieval processes. Elective defects in different aspects of information storing are considered as the main cause of amnesia by the third model. O`Keefe & Nadel chose the third model and pointed that it is a selective loss of the ability to establish cognitive maps, and this leads to the loss of that form of long-term memory which utilizes Spatio-temporal context for providing efficient retrieval of prior experience (p.425).

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O`Keefe & Nadel believes there is a direct connection between cognitive-mapping deficits and human hippocampal damage and provide various pieces of evidence of this assertion (p.436). They stated that the right hippocampus is crucial for such functions as exploration and spatial mapping.

Cognitive mapping is a significant mental process in human activity, as a person uses this ability in everyday life to orient in a spatial environment. Hence, the investigation of cognitive mapping activity is an important task for scientists. There is a number of cognitive mapping theories provided by researchers, including theories that are based on analogical thinking. The process of cognitive mapping is possible due to the help of the hippocampus that is responsible for spatial orientation. The information about places and objects in the environment and interconnections between them is stored in the hippocampus. There is a direct connection between the damage of the hippocampus and defects in a cognitive mapping process, which gives additional importance to the need for cognitive mapping research.

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