Carl Frederick Craver (2000) Searching for Common Ground. Psycoloquy: 11(111) Cognitive Mapping (4)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 11(111): Searching for Common Ground

Book Review of Golledge on Cognitive-Mapping

Carl Frederick Craver
Department of Philosophy
Florida International University
3000 N.E. 145th Street
North Miami, FL 33181


I review Golledge's latest edited collection on wayfinding behavior, paying particular attention to the prospects for interfield theory construction and to the mechanistic shape that an interfield theory of wayfinding will likely take.


cognitive map; internal representation; navigation; navigation; path integration; place cells; wayfinding.
1. For nearly three decades, R.G. Golledge (1999a,b) has urged his fellow geographers to investigate human spatial behavior and its cognitive and neural mechanisms. For Golledge and like-minded cognitive geographers, geography is not simply the study of spatial relations but, in addition, the study of how human beings explore, encounter, represent, store, communicate, and apply information about space. Cognitive geography is a relatively young specialization within contemporary theoretical geography and one that promises practical payoffs for, for example, designing maps and navigational systems, and for urban planning. Golledge has been an active participant in and promoter of this interfield research program (see, for example, Cox & Golledge, eds., 1969; Moore & Golledge, eds., 1976; Golledge & Rayner, eds., 1982; Golledge & Stimson, 1987; Garling & Golledge, eds., 1993); other significant works in the research program include Downs & Stea (1973, 1977), Garling & Evans (1991), Gould & White (1974), and Lynch (1960).

2. Wayfinding is the term that Golledge uses to describe the behaviors and cognitive mechanisms involved in determining and following a path or route between an origin and a destination (Golledgea, 1999a, p.6). Golledge's latest edited collection, Wayfinding Behavior: Cognitive Mapping and Other Spatial Processes, contains recent interdisciplinary work describing, comparing, and contrasting wayfinding in humans and other animals. So it is likely to be of wide interest; behavioral geographers, cognitive scientists, ethologists, information scientists, psychologists, neuroscientists, and roboticists can each learn something from the diverse perspectives collected here.

3. The volume is broken into four major sections: two on human wayfinding and two on wayfinding in nonhuman animals and systems. The chapters range from tightly focused reviews to broad and sweeping efforts to integrate wayfinding research into broader theoretical perspectives (e.g., neuroscience, cognitive science, and information science). Golledge prefaces each major section with a helpful overview in which he labors to standardize vocabulary, to frame important research questions, and to suggest possible avenues for future research. These introductory sections (along with Golledge's first chapter) give the collection an overall coherence that distinguishes it from other recent edited collections and makes it especially useful as a reference work. Because Golledge's precis adequately summarizes the individual chapters, I will focus my comments on the collection as a whole.

4. Golledge has included contributions from researchers in such diverse fields as psychology, cognitive science, computer science, ethology, geography, neuroscience, physiology, and zoology. The essays discuss behavioral, cognitive, computational, locomotive, perceptual, and neurobiological aspects of wayfinding. The papers also emphasize different experimental models (from ants to humans to wasps); these different experimental models engage in wayfinding behaviors that range from the highly unique and narrow in scope (like the dance of the honeybee) to highly general and wide-scope wayfinding practices (like dead-reckoning and piloting by landmarks). One goal of the volume is to search for common ground among these diverse perspectives.

5. Among other recent collected volumes on spatial behavior, Golledge's is unique for its emphasis on human wayfinding. Recent work on spatial memory in neuroscience often treats spatial memory as merely an experimental model and not as an end in itself as a kind of memory that is easily studied in nonhuman animals and that may or may not help to understand other kinds of learning and memory in humans. For example, research on spatial memory in the rodent hippocampus is treated as a tool to investigate the role of the hippocampus in human declarative memory. One message of the volume (and one emphasized in Nadel's discussion of the hippocampus and cognitive maps in Chapter 12) is that humans exhibit wayfinding behavior and, by implication, that there might be a more direct, and less tenuous, connection between animal research on spatial memory and human behavior and cognition.

6. The ambitious range of topics in this volume exposes it to criticism both for its omissions and for a certain lack of depth relative to other recent collections on spatial memory and wayfinding. Neuroscientists, for example, will be surprised that the volume does not mention recent experiments with the Morris water maze and radial arm mazes, two common experimental setups, and that recent gene-knockout studies of spatial memory are not discussed. Evolutionary psychological perspectives (e.g., Gaulin & Fitzgerald's (1986) work on sexual dimorphism and spatial memory in voles) are likewise omitted. The collection also focuses on visual, proprioceptive, and magnetic sources of sensory information in wayfinding while leaving out other sensory systems like sonar and echolocation in, e.g., porpoises and bats, and electroreception in weakly electric fish (e.g. Heiligenberg, 1991; Bullock, 1999). From a practical perspective, the volume might have benefited from exploring some of the more exotic forms of wayfinding because they are likely to reveal novel wayfinding mechanisms and thereby yield new potential technological applications. Readers wishing for a more thorough collection of the research in animals might consult Healey's edited volume Spatial Representation in Animals (1998), which overlaps Part III in Golledge's volume almost entirely and includes a more thorough discussion of recent work in rodents.

7. One might also wish for a more thorough discussion of the diverse experimental techniques and tasks used to study wayfinding behavior. A crucial task in the integration of the diverse literature on wayfinding behavior and its mechanisms will involve a detailed discussion of the vast arsenal of experimental protocols for eliciting and studying wayfinding behavior, their relative strengths and weaknesses, and their interrelationships with one another. Similarly, integration will involve comparisons among different experimental models (e.g., ants, voles, monkeys and humans) and consideration of the diverse complications and pitfalls of extrapolating from one animal species to another. Local discussions of this sort do pepper the Golledge collection, but a reader looking for a more detailed consideration of experimental protocols and models will find Foreman & Gilletts (1997) two-volume Handbook of Spatial Research Paradigms and Methodologies to be a valuable supplement.

8. As with Golledge's earlier work, the tone of Wayfinding is disciplinarily ecumenical. One will find no fighting words like reduction or elimination in this volume; instead one finds terms like cooperation and integration. This raises three difficult questions: First, what are the goals of this interdisciplinary integration? Second, what scientific strategies are likely to achieve these goals? And third, what unique tools and perspectives can geography contribute to these goals? I close with some brief remarks on these matters.

9.One goal of this interdisciplinary integration is entirely practical: findings from research on wayfinding in humans and animals are to be applied in, for example, the design of navigational systems. But the authors in this volume are chasing a deeper kind of interdisciplinary integration. Philosophers of science have described this kind of integration as the construction of interfield theories (Darden & Maul 1977), the discovery of interfield relations (Darden 1991), or the integration of scientific disciplines (Bechtel 1988).

10. I have already suggested that this disciplinary integration will involve careful comparison of different experimental techniques and different experimental models. A third aspect involves the construction of interfield theories describing mechanisms (see Bechtel & Richardson, 1993; Machamer, Darden & Craver, 2000). In such cases, the scientific goal is to describe a mechanism or a family of related mechanisms for a given phenomenon. This involves (i) characterizing the phenomena to be explained (e.g., piloting and dead reckoning), (ii) identifying the components of mechanisms for those phenomena, and (iii) figuring out how those component entities and activities can be organized to produce or instantiate the phenomenon. This theory construction process typically proceeds in a gradual and piecemeal fashion, as the Golledge volume illustrates, with different fields adding different constraints on the mechanism and its organization. Readers interested in how this theory construction process has proceeded in the case of spatial memory can consult a growing body of philosophical literature (see Craver & Darden 2000; cf. Bickle, 1998; Schouten & Looren De Jong, 1999).

11. Golledge's volume exhibits each of these three phases of the mechanistic theory construction process. Many of the authors are especially concerned with characterizing the phenomena: What are piloting, dead reckoning, and spatial map formation? How are these different phenomena distinguished from one another? And what different kinds of sensory information, decision criteria, and locomotor patterns are mobilized in each? Different aspects of these questions are handled throughout the book, but they are the special focus of the papers in Part I. Comparisons of wayfinding phenomena among animal species and between animals and humans are mostly discussed in Part III (Chapters 8-10). Other authors focus on the entities and activities out of which these diverse wayfinding mechanisms are constructed. Nagel's discussion of the role of the hippocampus in navigation (Chapter 12) and Amorim's ambitious attempt to incorporate theories of wayfinding into Kosslyn's (1981) description of the neural mechanisms of visuospatial cognition are especially interesting. Finally, there is the question of how the components in these mechanisms are organized in seamless productive continuity from sensory input to motor output. Each author in the book contributes something to this discussion, from psychological descriptions of the sequential stages in spatial choice (Garlings Chapter 3) or in route selection in urban environments (Stern & Portugali in Chapter 4), to computational processes in map formation (e.g. Nagel's Chapter 12 or Chown's Chapter 14), and finally to the development of a perceptual-action learning theory to describe navigation without vision (Rieser, Chapter 7).

12. Amid these diverse perspectives, and confronted with the novelty of the geographer's place in this interfield research program, one is driven to ask if there is any uniquely geographic contribution to the discussion? That is, is there some experimental technique or strategy, some theoretical vocabulary, or some unique perspective that is currently available to the geographer that might be interesting to psychologists and neuroscientists? This book is likely to attract readers from outside of the field of geography, and Golledge might therefore have done more in this volume to inform those readers of the specific possibilities for mutual benefit through collaboration. Perhaps, however, the arrow of interfield influence in this case points from the other fields into geography and not vice versa.

13. Golledge's latest volume will no doubt be a useful resource for researchers interested in wayfinding behavior, and especially for those seeking to draw comparisons between wayfinding in humans and in other animals. With this collected volume, Golledge has taken some important steps to standardize a theoretical vocabulary, to frame important questions for future research, and, most importantly, to emphasize the need for interdisciplinary perspectives in our understanding of wayfinding behavior. Although I have tried to highlight certain lacunae in the books coverage of these diverse issues, such criticism should be taken only as a call for more of the same. Golledge's collection displays important examples of how the search for common ground in the wayfinding literature ought to proceed.


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Bechtel, W. & Richardson, R.C. (1993). Discovering complexity: Decomposition and localization as strategies in scientific research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Bickle, J. (1998). Psychoneuronal reduction: The new wave. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bullock, T.H. (1999). The future of research on electroreception and electrocommunication. Journal of Experimental Biology, 202; 1455-8.

Cox, K. & Golledge, R.G., eds. (1969). Behavioral problems in geography: A symposium. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Craver, C. F. & Darden, L. (in press). Discovering mechanisms in neurobiology: The case of spatial memory, in P. Machamer, R. Grush, and P. McLaughlin (Eds.), Theory and method in the neurosciences. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

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Machamer, P.K., Darden, L., and Craver, C. F. (forthcoming). Thinking About Mechanisms. Philosophy of Science. v. 67.

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Schouten, K.D. and Looren De Jong, H. (1999). Reduction, elimination, and levels: The case of the LTP-learning link. Philosophical Psychology, 12; 237-262.

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