Reginald G. Golledge (2002) Wayfinding Behavior and Cognitive Maps: a Response to Critics. Psycoloquy: 13(016) Cognitive Mapping (7)

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Psycoloquy 13(016): Wayfinding Behavior and Cognitive Maps: a Response to Critics

Reply to Clune, Hafner, Craver, and Yeap & Jefferies on Golledge on Cognitive-Mapping

Reginald G. Golledge
Department of Geography
University of California Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara CA 93106-4060


The reviewers of "Wayfinding Behavior" (Golledge 1999a,b) are from philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, and computer science. This book brought together a multidisciplinary collection of experts from perceptual psychology, transportation science, geography, psychology of individual differences, computational process modeling, neuropsychology, ethology, zoology, artificial intelligence, and biology to illustrate the compatibility of thinking, theorizing, and empirically verifying wayfinding concepts. Inevitably relevant disciplinary material is underrepresented, but the reviewers appear to agree that this initial try serves a useful purpose.


wayfinding, cognitive map, spatial representation, path integration, piloting, perception-action, neuroscience, individual differences, blind/vision impaired

I. General Reaction to the Reviews

1. Putting this book together was an experiment. I invited leading scholars from a variety of human science, physical science, natural science, and techno science areas to contribute chapters. My aim was to put together a collection of papers that would inform about wayfinding behavior in humans and other animals. In particular, it focused on whether the concept of a cognitive map was relevant across all facets of animals or whether we should differentiate between humans and some higher order primates on the one hand and the mix of other animals, birds, and insects on the other hand. Because of the magnitude and complexity of the task, the book was not designed to produce ultimate answers. Rather, it was designed to encourage people from different disciplinary areas to begin open discussion and link their thoughts and findings with researchers in other areas. The hope was that this would lead to more multidisciplinary thinking and a more powerful understanding of the wayfinding process, especially any similarities and differences found between humans and other animal groups.

2. Given this objective, it appears that the reviewers agreed that it has been achieved. As with any task such as this however, it is also obvious from the reviewers' comments that this work gives an incomplete coverage of the general problem area. Each of the reviewers has suggestions for what could have been done (from their point of view) to improve the book's contribution. One cannot deny that such might well have been the case. However, given the risk taken by the publisher in the first place, it did not seem possible to produce a volume that was twice the length of the existing one. In each review, you will find some interesting suggestions for alternate approaches or for expanding the scope of this volume. I hope that some readers will follow up on these suggestions, thus emphasizing the point that the book has achieved what it set out to do -- stimulate multidisciplinary interest in a topic and encourage people to think, research, and write more about the fundamental wayfinding process.

II. Specific Comments

1). Comments by Alan C. Clune

3. Clune acknowledges the range of material in the book and confines his reviewer comments to Part II "Perceptual and Cognitive Processing of Environmental Information." Clune acknowledged that he had difficulty with the discussion of the "encoding error" model. His particular difficulty relates to an assumption that systematic error in performance is the result of error in "sensing the outbound path and representing that information in memory" (p. 139). The justification of this statement is given both in terms of the completion of experiments on which this model is based and results for follow up experiments on perceptually directed action (Loomis, et al. 1998, experiment 3). In response to this criticism, one of the key authors of both papers (Roberta Klatzky) has offered the following comments to me in a personal communication (Friday, February 1, 2002): "A large number of studies now demonstrate that when people have active control of their trajectory to a target, they arrive at its perceived location with little systematic error over a substantial distance when walking without vision. It is important to note that it is the perceived location that is achieved without error, since circumstances that lead to systematic errors in perception of the location (e.g., auditory stimulus) will duplicate those errors in travel to it -- as evidenced by the convergence of direct and indirect paths at the same erroneous location. It is also worth noting that active control of the path seems important (Phibeck, J.W., Klatzky, R.L., Behrmann, M., Loomis, J.M., & Goodridge, J. 2001).

4. Now, when we apply these findings to the triangle completion task, we assume that, after encoding legs 1 and 2, under passive guidance in our studies, subjects compute a homeward trajectory and actively control its execution. As in the studies on perceptually guided action, this means they have a destination in mind and they execute the path to it. Since those studies show little systematic error in walking to the desired trajectory without vision, we assume the same about our circumstances, in which the destination is computed (from erroneously encoded inputs) rather than perceived directly."

5. With regard to Chapter 5, the other major point raised by Clune concerns the differences between moment to moment updating and configural learning. In Chapter 5, Loomis, et al. (p. 141) did provide an explanation of the difference between the two. This appears to be one of those situations where the authors are satisfied with their interpretation, the reviewer is not, and the obvious conclusion is that this should become a topic for future research.

6. Clune's comments on Amorim's Chapter 6 point to an interesting current debate between those interested in brain functioning and those interested in neurocognitive processing and the activities of the mind (i.e., thinking and reasoning). Indeed, in his final evaluation of this chapter, Clune concludes that Amorim's emphasis is not so much on validating Kosslyn's image-based model but making points about neurocognition in general. This was, I believe, the essence of Amorim's article.

7. In Rieser's Chapter 7, Clune acknowledges the primary thesis concerning the coupling of perception and action and its relation to the coupling of representation and action (p. 172). Clune suggests that the coupling evidence is incomplete -- is there a "one stage" or a "two stage" process involved? Once again, the reviewer seems to have achieved a goal of identifying yet another interesting problem for future research.

8. The chapters in this section, like those in other segments of the book, were designed to reflect each contributor's latest thoughts on the focal problem of their article (their own research). All would admit that their research is ongoing, and that the state of their art, as revealed by the chapters in this book, is still partial and incomplete. I suspect that both the reviewer and the authors have benefited from this review by finding new research problems to investigate, thus pushing the boundary of knowledge about wayfinding ever further into the unknown.

2). Review by Verena Hafner

9. Hafner endorses the multidisciplinary approach taken in this book on wayfinding behavior. But, immediately, he focuses on a very important aspect of the entire book -- a somewhat inconsistent interpretation of the term "cognitive map" and the inference in several chapters that, in some species, it may be better to think of internal spatial representations rather than cognitive maps (e.g., Judd and Collett's chapter on insect navigation). Hafner emphasizes some of the key ongoing research issues in the larger area of cognitive mapping and spatial behavior such as the incompleteness of cognitive maps, the fact that such representations are not necessarily "maps" in the usual sense (i.e., cartographic interpretation of the world), and the relative significance of landmarks in the construction of cognitive maps. He points out that the book could have included a greater emphasis on artificial intelligence (a point that is hard to dispute) and suggested that, from this reviewer's point of view, there is perhaps too much emphasis on human wayfinding. I would dispute the "too much emphasis." There have been excellent books over the last 20 years on non-human navigation and wayfinding in many animal, bird, and insect species (Gallistel, 1990, is an excellent example). There have, however, been virtually no books on human wayfinding. And certainly there have been few that have tried to bridge the gap between wayfinding behaviors and activities of humans and other animals. In this case, the emphasis on humans, I believe, is justified. I also find it hard to accept this reviewer's point about "wayfinding in forests." Such activities occur in many primitive societies, or in armed forces for orienteering exercises, and probably among hunters. But most human wayfinding takes place in built environments where landmark recognition is an important part of the wayfinding process. One must recognize that wayfinding in natural environments is, for most people today, an unnatural act that is rarely (if ever) a focus of participation. Path integration processes in built environments are very difficult to pursue, because of the network structure of the path system. In a city, one simply cannot return directly to home as one might in an open pasture, or even in a woodland area. And as for comments on what "might have been," every reader will have such an opinion, and I know of no book ever produced that satisfies every reviewer's ideas of what should be represented in the text.

3.) Comments by Carl F. Craver

10. Craver identifies the fact that this book represents the latest step in the editor's three-decade long investigative researches into cognitive mapping and human behavior. Again, the multidisciplinary nature of the contributions is acknowledged and appreciated. And this reviewer recognizes that works on human wayfinding are sparse, concluding that this book is making a contribution in several distinct ways. Like the previous reviewer, Craver suggests that there is an imbalance in the areas represented and that a greater emphasis on artificial intelligence and cognitive neurosciences might have been useful. As with the other reviewers, Craver finds things (e.g., the water maze experiment) that were not mentioned in any of the chapters, but which, in his opinion, are of sufficient importance to have been mentioned. I know that the majority of authors in this book are aware of this important experiment, but simply elected to use other examples in support of their work. Again, many of the reviewer's points are supportive of the idea that other books should be produced in this area, and that the area is rich enough and diverse enough to support such efforts.

4.) Review by W.K. Yeap and M.E. Jefferies

11. Yeap and Jefferies, themselves important contributors to work on cognitive mapping, particularly in the computational modeling domain, also find the book has paid insufficient attention to the computational process involved in building cognitive maps. They also suggest the book should have been divided into two rather than four sections. This review proceeds chapter by chapter, making specific points of omission or needed clarification. These reviewers suggest that part two (about the perceptual and cognitive processing of environmental information) is out of place in the book, because, while interesting experiments were discussed, the logical extension from such experiments to the cognitive mapping task was not well pursued. However, here the reviewers elevate the secondary purpose of the book (i.e., to examine cognitive mapping and spatial behavior) to the primary purpose of the book (i.e., which was to examine wayfinding behavior), and I believe it is only when this reversal takes place that their comments become relevant.

III. Summary

12. I do not believe, as editor of this book, that I must reply to every point made by the reviewers. There is some repetition -- the over emphasis on the human side, which I believe is not justified in terms of the existing literature; the relative lack of work on artificial intelligence and computational modeling, which has some merit; the list of topics that could have been or should have been included in the book, which could be endless; and so on. These criticisms, however, are balanced by other general and more positive statements; the multidisciplinary nature of the approach, bringing together human, physical, natural, and technological scientists in a single volume; the emphasis on current work and experimentation, rather than simply reviewing past literature; the opening of new avenues for research in a wide variety of wayfinding domains; and so on. I have not asked all the authors to respond in detail to the criticisms included in the works of these four reviewers. This could have led to another volume the size of the one originally being reviewed! Rather, I leave it to the readers of Psycoloquy to use the reviewers' comments as incentives to more closely investigate different segments of the book itself. It was intended to be a volume that would initiate interest and more research. It was not intended to provide definitive and final answers to any of the questions raised and problems investigated in each of the chapters. But it is my belief that those who were invited to contribute to this book have contributed a very significant discussion of the focal area. And, along with the reviewers, I sincerely hope that this volume will soon be complemented by others that are even more comprehensive and, hopefully, even more definitive.


Clune, A. C. (2000). Finding one's way through "wayfinding". Psycoloquy 11(058)

Craver, C. F. (2000). Searching for common ground. Psycoloquy 11(111)

Gallistel, C. R. (1990). Representations in animal cognition: An introduction. Cognition, 37(1-2), 1-22.

Golledge, R. G. (1999a). Wayfinding behavior: Cognitive mapping and other spatial processes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Golledge, R. G. (1999b). Precis of "Wayfinding behavior: Cognitive mapping and other spatial processes." PSYCOLOQUY 10(036) psyc.99.10.036.cognitive-mapping.1.golledge

Hafner, V. V. (2000). Explaining wayfinding behaviour and cognitive mapping. Psycoloquy 11(060)

Phibeck, J. W., Klatzky, R. L., Behrmann, N., Loomis, J. M., & Goodridge, J. (2001). Active control of locomotion facilitates non-visual navigation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27, 141-153.

Yeap, W. K. & Jefferies, M. E. (2000). What wayfinding behaviour tells us about cognitive mapping. Psycoloquy 11(112)

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