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Empirical Evidence for Concepts of Spatial Information as Cognitive Means for Interpreting and Using Maps

Authors Enkhbold Nyamsuren, Eric J. Top, Haiqi Xu, Niels Steenbergen, Simon Scheider

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Enkhbold Nyamsuren
  • Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Eric J. Top
  • Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Haiqi Xu
  • Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Niels Steenbergen
  • Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Simon Scheider
  • Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands

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Enkhbold Nyamsuren, Eric J. Top, Haiqi Xu, Niels Steenbergen, and Simon Scheider. Empirical Evidence for Concepts of Spatial Information as Cognitive Means for Interpreting and Using Maps. In 15th International Conference on Spatial Information Theory (COSIT 2022). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 240, pp. 7:1-7:14, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2022)


Due to the increasing prevalence and relevance of geo-spatial data in the age of data science, Geographic Information Systems are enjoying wider interdisciplinary adoption by communities outside of GIScience. However, properly interpreting and analysing geo-spatial information is not a trivial task due to knowledge barriers. There is a need for a trans-disciplinary framework for sharing specialized geographical knowledge and expertise to overcome these barriers. The core concepts of spatial information were proposed as such a conceptual framework. These concepts, such as object and field, were proposed as cognitive lenses that can simplify understanding of and guide the processing of spatial information. However, there is a distinct lack of empirical evidence for the existence of such concepts in the human mind or whether such concepts can be indeed useful. In this study, we have explored for such empirical evidence using behavioral experiments with human participants. The experiment adopted a contrast model to investigate whether the participants can semantically distinguish between the object and field core concepts visualized as maps. The statistically significant positive results offer evidence supporting the existence of the two concepts or cognitive concepts closely resembling them. This gives credibility to the core concepts of spatial information as tools for sharing, teaching, or even automating the process of geographical information processing.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Information systems → Geographic information systems
  • General and reference → Empirical studies
  • core concepts
  • cognition
  • map interpretation
  • spatial analysis


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