According to Hiraga (2009), cognitive mapping basically refers to the formation of a conceptual matrix for understanding. He notes that it represents people’s mental image of the environment. Some scholars have proposed that cognitive maps are the map-like mental constructs that can be mentally inspected. Cognitive maps are learned by acquiring such world’s elements as landmarks and routes, which are then analyzed together with the information obtained from metric survey. Cognitive maps differ from the true environmental maps and are majorly meant to provide a way of conceptualizing the relationship that exists between the characteristics of any task and its performance. Hiraga (2009) notes that cognitive maps seek to describe various mental acts in an attempt to ease the utilization of different parameters in the performance analysis and interpretation.
Definition and Description of the Theories of Cognitive Mapping
Hiraga (2009) identifies three major theories of cognitive mapping. His first theory is the Structure Mapping Engine theory. It occupies one extreme of the functional continuum. It is also mostly considered as an exhaustively optimal and maximal approach. Hiraga (2009) noted that the approach is preferable because it is able to produce all the possible interpretations in any given analogical mapping. In this approach, there is no addition of correspondences, as this would jeopardize its consistency and coherence. The approach is also preferred because it gives scores for each alternative interpretation and clearly indicates the best mapping in relation to a specifically preferred systematic metric (Hiraga, 2009).
The second theory of cognitive mapping is the Analogical Constraint Mapping Engine which also emphasizes the need to map systematically. However, it does not provide the optimal and maximal strategy pursued by the Structure Mapping Engine theory. Hiraga (2009) noted that it instead entails constructing a constraint network for each known analogical problem. This enables the approach to be useful in the modeling of various pressures of similarity, context, and isomorphism. It thus has a bearing on the final interpretation. However, the resulting explanation from this approach is neither guaranteed to be optimal nor maximal nor even wholly systematic. Unlike the Structure Mapping Engine theory, this theory does not guarantee anything and therefore represents a heurist rather than a complete approach to the problem (Hiraga, 2009).
The third theory is a natural or evolutionary model of computation. It involves the pressurization by the environmental forces, making the system to converge towards a good, rather than optimal, solution to a problem (Hiraga, 2009).
Discuss how Cognitive Mapping Affects the Understanding of Memory
Traversky (2010) noted that cognitive maps are by nature prone to various biases that affect memory by distorting the reality. He argued that such biases result from factors like the differences in cultures and genders. He first assumed that heuristics may lead people to overestimate the possibility of occurrence of various events. He reasoned that such events are more available to memory. According to Traversky (2010), cognitive mapping can thus result into either an overestimation or underestimation.
Another possible effect of cognitive mapping on memory is related to anchoring and adjustment. Traversky (2010) noted that people normally adjust their judgments according to implied reference frames. According to him, the estimates that people give as of the influence on the environment are easily influenced by the anchors which are considered inherent in any response options. To Traversky (2010), this is what explains the associations that students put between two phenomena or events. An example is the belief by students that there is an association between the earth and tree picking and that the goal of tree picking is to harm loggers and not just avert the continuation of the logging vice.
Traversky (2010) also identified the coincidence effect as one of the factors that may make the cognitive map affect memory. The coincidental effect of cognitive mapping may result into a case where two items that are similar on just one dimension are regarded as more comparable to each other unlike any other two items that only moderately differ on both dimensions. Another biased related cognitive mapping issue is the false consensus and uniqueness in bias. This also results into an overestimation of various issues (Traversky, 2010).
Another aspect is the false polarization which results into the misperception of extremity of positions. In such a situation, people will tend to perceive the views of those opposing them as more extreme than they actually are. The end result of such a biased way of thinking is that one perceives his or her opponents as more susceptible to biased thinking than they really are. It also results into false blame as if people seek attribute negative motives to those whose views are opposed to theirs (Traversky, 2010).
The Influence of Brain Injury and Information Retrieval
Impaired memory is one of the universal problems of people with head injury. According to Johnson (2010), its effect becomes clearer when a review is done on the working of the short-term memory. Usually, the information flows into the brain through the middle of brain before it branches out to the other parts after going through a filtering system. However, whenever the brain is injured, the middle areas get pressed upon by the resulting additional pressure which tends to push down on the brain. Given that the middle sections of the brain rest on the skull, whenever it experiences the forward and backward movement, it can get sheered or torn. A problem may also develop whenever there is a large flow of information which the brain is not able to process at the same time. The result is that the information will not be sent to the right place, causing difficulties in retrieving the information. This results into the situation in which one may have known what he wanted to say but could not just remember it (Johnson, 2010).
In conclusion, cognitive mapping is a very useful process in the life of any human being.