Recognition of topographic map information: The influence of map complexity and grids as artificial structuring elements on recognition memory performance
1Bestgen, A.; 2Edler, D.; 3Dickmann, F.; 4Kuchinke, L.
Maps show variances in map complexity, comprising different kinds of stimuli and stimulus features such as shapes, colors and numbers of objects, as well as their spatial relationships and distances. Integration of this information in order to orientate on a map is considered as a complex task. It is commonly assumed that recognized information is represented in memory as cognitive maps (Tversky, 1993) that enclose spatial relations between map objects - but also spatial distortions, which occur due to transcription errors based on processing of map information. Participants took part in a recognition memory paradigm wherein object locations were studied in topographic maps (scale 1/10,000) of different complexity and had to be remembered in a subsequent test phase. Besides map complexity, varied at three different levels of amount of visual information, an additional factor of regular square grids (grid/ no grid) was included in the design. Similar to map complexity, grids as artificial structuring elements in maps were expected to support chunking of visual information (Stainer, Scott-Brown & Tatler, 2013), and thus should operate against the spatial distortions in object location memory. The particular recognition memory paradigm used allows the computation of receiver-operating characteristics (based on confidence ratings of recognition performance) which were used to analyze and discriminate the underlying memory processes, Familiarity and Recollection (Yonelinas, 2007). Familiarity is the process which describes the feeling of knowing without the retrieval of qualitative information; for example when recognizing an object in a particular (sub-)region of a map, but the retrieval of its exact location is missing. Recollection on the other hand involves the retrieval of such qualitative information; for example knowing the exact location of an object as well as its spatial relations to the surrounding objects. Recollection in contrast to familiarity may entail the retrieval of specific information and their spatial locations to the map content and thus is expected to be less prone to spatial distortions. The results of this study with n = 32 participants reveal that the complexity of a map and the inclusion of a grid as a structuring map element clearly enhance recognition memory performance – but in an interactive manner. In particular, regarding Familiarity, in the highest map complexity condition the effect of the grid was decreased compared to low- and mid-complex maps. A higher Recollection was observed when a grid was included in the map. Moreover, an inverted u-shaped distribution with increasing map complexity (with the highest Recollection for mid-complex maps) was found for recognition memory performance. These results clearly show that the memory processes of Familiarity and Recollection are differentially affected by a map-inherent factor like complexity and by artificial map structuring elements. Thus, map information has various influences on the different memory processes which might be considered in future map design in order to decrease distortion errors and guide the map reader´s attention to map information of interest. Future studies should include a wider range of complexity types in maps in order to examine the parametric modulation of complexity. For instance, complexity should be subdivided into further components, e.g. landscape categories (e.g., urban vs. rural topographies). Also the effect of different amounts of visual information should be investigated in order to control perceptual processing steps during encoding of the map information that might affect the cognitive map representations in different ways. Eye-tracking might provide additional important information about the encoding of maps that differ in their complexities.
Map perception; Recognition memory; Cognitive maps