13 April 2011

Mental Maps: Do We Know Our Way Around?

Environmental Cognition and Perception: What does it mean? According to UCSB's Dr. Dan Montello, perception and cognition of one's environment is the process of finding one's way, identifying dangers and resources, and in a more general sense how one's environment is understood. A great demonstration of this concept is the Mental Sketch Map, or a hand drawn map from memory of an area that one is quite familiar with.

UCSB official campus map
 I recently had to collect mental sketch maps from several peers for my Environmental Perception class here at UCSB. The idea was to see how UCSB students recalled campus and to see how campus was laid out in each other minds. One may be able to navigate around campus quite efficiently, but recalling all that data on a piece of paper at one time is much more difficult.

My six participants received these instructions and produced the following six maps: (please excuse the poor scan quality!)

Drawn by 19-year-old female who lives on campus

20 year old male living in IV

19 year old female living on campus

21 year old male living in Isla Vista, recently moved from Goleta

21 year old male living in Isla Vista

21 year old living in Isla Vista

  • Most people are unfamiliar with buildings on the north side of campus (mostly administrative buildings)
  • Living in Isla Vista gives one much more limited view of campus which largely excludes the dorm areas, etc
  • One's mode of transportation greatly affected perception: those who bike always put bike paths down first, and those who walk start with foot paths! 
  • No one could correctly locate Campbell hall, although it is the largest lecture hall on campus which EVERY UCSB has had class in at least once.... 
Now: take another look at UCSB's offical campus map. The maps I collected from my participants varied greatly in layout, accuracy, and usefulness, but its extremely interesting to see how people perceive their surroundings.

Again, Official UCSB campus map

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