Retrieval, action and the representation of distance in cognitive maps
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This thesis examines the context effects on retrieval, and the influence of action on the representation of distance in cognitive maps. It is proposed that bias in distance estimation is a function of the contexts of retrieval that trigger the representation of action in memory during evaluation tasks. The proposal is consistent with embodied cognition evidence that suggests that actions are implicitly a part of the representation, and will be naturally extracted as part of the retrieval process. The experimental work presented examines two different contextual cues; the frequency of visitation to landmarks, and the importance of activity performed at landmarks. Each cue primes differently the conceptualisation of landmarks prior to making distance estimation. This priming facilitates memory access, which fleshes out relevant spatial information from cognitive maps that are used in distance estimation and route description. This proposal was examined in a series of four experiments that employed structured interviews. Participants had to rate landmarks based on frequency of visitation criteria or importance of activity criteria, or both. They then made verbal distance estimations and route descriptions. The results found implicate the involvement of action representation. The involvement of action in cognitive process was empirically investigated in three further experiments. A new methodology was developed featuring the use of a blindfold, linguistic descriptions, and control of actual movements. Blindfolded participants learned new environments through verbal descriptions by imagining themselves walking in time with the metronome beats. During turns, they were carefully moved. Following instructions, they performed an action at mid-route. Their memories for the newly learned environments were tested through recalls and measured again with the metronome beats. The results found were consistent with explanations based on network-map theory. They implicate attentional processes as an intrinsic part of the cognitive mechanism, and the strings of the network-map as the actual motor program that executes the movement. These results are discussed in relation to the nature of cognitive maps.
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