COGNITION OF GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
Research in the cognition of geographic information deals with human
perception, memory, reasoning, and communication involving the
spatiotemporal and thematic attributes of objects and events, both in
the real world and in digital representations. Basic research in
geographic cognition is relevant to many issues involving geographic
information: data collection and storage, graphic representation and
interface design, spatial analysis, interoperability, decision-making,
the societal context of GIS, and more. We believe that many aspects of
geographic information system usability, efficiency, and profitability
can be improved by greater attention to cognitive research.
A growing number of researchers are addressing cognitive questions
about geographic information. Such work stems from a research tradition
begun primarily in the 1950s and 1960s by behavioral geographers,
cartographers, urban planners, and environmental psychologists.
Behavioral geographers began developing theories and models of the human
reasoning and decision-making involved in spatial behavior, such as
migration, vacationing, and daily travel. Cartographers initiated
research on how maps and map symbols are perceived and understood by map
users, both expert and novice. Planners began to study how humans
perceive and learn about built environments, in order to improve their
design. Finally, environmental psychologists refocused traditional
questions about psychological processes and structures to understand how
they operate in built and natural environments, such as public
buildings, neighborhoods, cities, and wilderness areas.
During the decades since the 1960s, several additional disciplines
within the behavioral and cognitive sciences have contributed their own
research questions and methodologies to this topic. Within research
psychology, the subfields of perceptual, cognitive, developmental,
educational, industrial/organizational, and social psychology have all
conducted research on questions relating to how humans acquire and use
spatial and nonspatial information about the world. Architects have
joined planners in an attempt to improve the design of built
environments through an understanding of human cognition in and of those
environments. Both linguists and anthropologists have conducted research
on human language and conceptualization about space and place.
Artificial intelligence (AI) researchers within computer science and
other disciplines have developed simulations of spatial intelligence, in
some cases as part of the design of mobile robots.
More recently, within the past five to ten years, an interest in
geographic cognition has developed within the geographic information