Environmental experience and environmental knowledge : a contextual analysis of cognitive mapping of large-scale environments



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Most research on cognitive representations of large-scale environments has been based on an organismic model or metaphor and has neglected to consider cognitive representations in the context of everyday transactions with the environment. The purpose of the present investigation was to address this general problem by examining college students' cognitive representations of their campus environment from a contextual perspective. The study had three major objectives: (1) to investigate the nature of the relationship between cognitive representations and socioemotional representations of the environment; (2) to investigate the relationship between environmental experience, as indexed by students' residential status and gender, and cognitive and socioemotional measures of environmental meaning; and (3) to explore the usefulness of a variety of methodological procedures for a contextual analysis of environmental representations. Results indicated that cognitive and socioemotional representations were related in rather complex ways, as was environmental experience related to cognitive and socioemotional measures. In particular, subjects' ability to characterize features of the environment along the dimensions of sociability and safety was found to relate to their ability to geographically represent the environment. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) analyses revealed that subjects' socioemotional representations were fit well by a two-dimensional solution. Cluster analyses revealed a consistent relationship among buildings along a dimension other than social or safety, possibly according to their functional affordances. Residents and commuters, and males and females, differed slightly in terms of cognitive and socioemotional measures. Considerable variability was found among the four subgroups, (with resident males exhibiting the best organized representations of the environment on both cognitive and socioemotional measures). These results warrant further application of MDS techniques to the study of social and emotional representations, in order to more fully understand the nature of environmental meaning.



Environmental psychology, Cognition--Social aspects