spatial nagivation, maps, terrain, spatial representation, spatial cognition, topographic map comprehension
Navigating, and studying spatial navigation, is difficult enough in two dimensions when maps and terrains are flat. Here we consider the capacity for human spatial navigation on sloped terrains, and how sloping terrain is depicted in 2D map representations, called topographic maps. First, we discuss research on how simple slopes are encoded and used for reorientation, and to learn spatial configurations. Next, we describe how slope is represented in topographic maps, and present an assessment (the Topographic Map Assessment), which can be administered to measure topographic map comprehension. Finally, we describe several approaches our lab has taken with the aim of improving topographic map comprehension, including gesture and analogy. The current research reveals a rich and complex picture of topographic map understanding, which likely involves perceptual expertise, strong spatial skills, and inferential logic.
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