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Environment, Cognition, and ActionAn Integrated Approach$
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Tommy Gärling and Gary W. Evans

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780195062205

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195062205.001.0001

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Searching for the Environment in Environmental Cognition Research

Searching for the Environment in Environmental Cognition Research

5 (p.78) Searching for the Environment in Environmental Cognition Research
Environment, Cognition, and Action

Craig Zimring

Mark Gross

Oxford University Press

Research in environmental cognition has been fragmented into at least three related but separate areas that reflect different purposes, viewpoints, and disciplinary conventions (Evans and Gärling, this volume). One tradition has focused on predicting spatial choices such as choosing shops or modes of transportation (Timmermans, this volume). A second tradition, driven in part by the necessity to make value judgments about settings to be spared or modified in development, has focused on the assessment of environments, and particularly on the visual quality of natural settings (R. Kaplan, this volume). Finally, a third tradition, coming principally from psychology and geography, has focused on exploring the content and structure of mental representations of the environment (Golledge, this volume). In this chapter we discuss these three approaches to environmental cognition and examine how they can contribute to each other and to a more general view of action, evaluation, and cognition. We focus specifically on the linkages between the physical environment, cognitive mediators, and outcomes such as wayfinding, decision making, and other actions. We pay particular attention to how the environment and mediators are represented. This chapter is organized into several sections. After the introduction, we review the chapters in this volume by Timmermans, R. Kaplan, and Golledge. Unlike much previous work in evaluation and in spatial decision making, all three authors discuss the cognitive processes that mediate between environment and behavior. The following section considers alternative approaches to cognitive mediators such as mental models and schemas. Following this, we briefly examine how the physical setting has been represented in environmental cognition. We then turn to computational models that attempt to provide rigorous definitions of both environment and mediator. Next, we propose our own preliminary schema-based model of wayfinding. Finally, we suggest some questions for further research. In artificial intelligence research a distinction is made between two alternative approaches to theory: “scruffy” and “neat” (Luger & Stubblefield, 1989). Whereas researchers following both traditions are interested in simulating human cognitive behavior, the scruffies primarily focus on producing a computational system where the outcomes mimic human behavior.

Keywords:   Cartography, Decision rule, Environmental evaluation, Knowledge structure, Landmarks, Physical environment, Route knowledge, Schema, Wayfinding

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