Maps and Navigation: Introduction
Most researchers suggest that peoples’ internal representations of their environment have many map-like properties. As a person moves about in the environment, invariant properties of the environment are preserved in the mental map, such as the relative location of objects with respect to each other, while the location of the person in the mental map is continually updated. A mental map has important “emergent properties”, such as triangualation. If the locations of A relative to B and B relative to C are both known, then the location of A relative to C can be derived. Mental maps can be used to derive new spatial information, such as what something looks like from a different perspective. Mental maps can be used to plan movements, such as what route to take to a destination, what direction to turn at a choice point, where landmarks are located, and so on. Many researchers have even argued that maps have evolved as the most “natural” way to represent spatial information because they are compatible with the way people think. In other words, maps supposedly correspond to the abstract, symbolic and schematic spatial representations of the human mind.