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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Map reading : the object is to form a true mental picture of the ground Smith, Gordon E.


The purpose of this study was to determine if student map users create a three-dimensional mental image of the landscape depicted by a topographic map. A review of previous research clearly indicates that human beings can and do form three-dimensional mental images. Since a topographic map is a form of cartographic communication in which the cartographer using an appropriate symbol system attempts to represent a real landscape, it follows that a map user who shares the same symbol system should be able to transform the symbols into a three-dimensional mental image of the original landscape. To be successful this cartographic communication requires that both cartographer and map-user share a common symbol system and, further, that the map-user is able to make the transformation from map to three-dimensional mental image. It is hypothesized that both of these requirements can be met. To test these hypotheses a quasi-experimental research design using an experimental and a control group and a pretest-posttest format was chosen. Two groups of Grade 10 and two groups of Grade 12 students participated in the study with one group from each grade in the experimental group and the other acting as a control group. To evaluate the mental image formed students were asked to draw a representation of a mental image and also to write a description of one. The results of the research clearly support the hypothesis that cartographer and map user can share a common symbol system. While the attempt to draw a representation of a mental image was largely unsuccessful, the written descriptions clearly support the hypothesis that map users can and do form three-dimensional mental images of landscapes depicted by topographic maps. The results also suggest a possibility that the ability to form complex three-dimensional, mental images may in part be a function of maturation.

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