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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cognitive mapping of the home environment Rothwell, David Colin


The dissertation describes an experiment in cognitive mapping. Cognitive mapping is the process by which spatial information is acquired, coded, stored, decoded and applied to the comprehension of the everyday physical environment. A cognitive map can also be a physical drawing, produced by hand to communicate the original map in the head. The dissertation uses the term, manual map, to distinguish the graphic hand drawn representation from the actual cognitive map. The experiment required adult household members to sketch a floor plan of their home, complete a spatial aptitude and graphic ability test and supply biographical, socio-economic, and attitudinal information. Children over the age of three also sketched a floor plan and completed an I.Q. test. All seventy sample households (222 respondents) lived in houses with identical floor plans. A major finding of the experiment was that manual maps can be reliable and valid research instrument in the study of cognitive maps. Psychometric techniques were used in the data analysis to test for reliability and validity. Both spatial aptitude and graphic ability were found to be significantly related to the ability of individuals to communicate their cognitive maps. Persons with superior mental faculties have cognitive maps which more closely reflect reality. When psychophysical functions were examined, there appeared to be a linear relationship between subjective distance and area and real distance and area. Socio-economic variables, biographical data, and the subject's cognitive structure of the home as revealed through the semantic differential, did not produce significant correlations with the ability to communicate cognitive maps. Children's ability to produce a manual map which resembles reality is significantly related to age, spatial aptitude, and graphic ability. A child's manual map is a reflection of his general stage of mental development.

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