Cognitive maps refers to the method we apply in constructing and accumulating spatial information within our environment thus enabling the mind to envision metaphors thereby promoting learning of information and ability to remember such information. In addition, this method also help people in performing non-spatial duties requiring the use of imagery and memory to process the task (Kitchin, 1994). Because of this importance of cognitive maps, several theories have been developed to in an attempt to explain this concept of cognitive mapping.
Such theories include parallel cognitive map theory, theory of fuzzy cognitive maps and the theory of structural cognitive modifiability among other theories. These theories were urbanized or structured in 1976 so as to explain the underlying connection among “nodes” or “concepts”. These underlying connections could be constructive, destructive or neutral and any increase in the amount of the “nodes” would directly or indirectly cause either a negative or positive change in the amount of the other interrelated “nodes” in the web or connection.
a) Theory of Fuzzy Cognitive Maps
In the theory of Fuzzy Cognitive Maps (FCMs) developed in 1986 by Bart Kosko following the introduction of the idea of fuzziness in the learning of cognitive maps, the interconnection between two “nodes” result in weight in the interval. Following a well elaborate research which has been carried out towards the development of fuzzy cognitive maps, major advancements have been made to help develop a stronger foundational base to this theory. In using this theory of cognitive maps, memorization of the physical outlook of the image such as building must be taken into account first (Rod, 1991). In order to remember the physical appearance of the image, mentally “open through” the memorized sites recalling any image that was kept there during memorization period.
b) Parallel Map Theory
In this theory, the hippocampus uses di-mapping system to encode space for spatial information. During this encoding process, a bearing map is developed from directional signals like stimulus gradients. This development takes place in the dentate gyrus. When this data obtained from the bearing is merged with that of the sketch maps are merged, a well modified map results. These component maps operate in parallel way thus enabling the defect of one maps can unlock the residual learning by the other map. The parallel function in the parallel map theory helps in explaining illogicality in spatial learning i.e. taxonomic and sexual differences in spatial learning. Through integration of evidence from physiology to phylogeny, a combined elaboration of the workability of hippocampus has been developed.
c) Theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability
This theory argues that humans are organisms free, adaptive and agreeable for any change within them. In this view, the theory helps in modifying the individual and at the same time putting emphasis on the independent changes within humans. Hence, it views intelligence as the self adjustment tendency by an organism whenever confronted with the situation to do so. This entails the ability of to adjust be learning and the innovative skills to fit future changes (Feuerstein, 1990). Therefore, according to this theory, intelligence is an adjustable state and not immutable character thereby making cognition to play a key function in modifiability of human beings. Hence, a number of behaviors and emotions can undergo modification through cognitive involvement. (Feuerstein, 1990)
It is noted that cognitive mapping and hippocampus functionality directly relates i.e. without proper functionality of the hippocampus, people cannot remember any past event they have encountered in their lives or how to reach their destination. Therefore, malfunctioning of the hippocampus leads to memory loss due to lack of cognitive skills. According to research done on certain animals, for initial learning to commence and even have long lasting remembrance of certain spatial memory duties, an intact hippocampus must be present especially if a new issue is to be reached. The study also reveals that when making a corner, people usually have many hippocampi, something which was tested during a virtual navigation task using a computer based approach. Hippocampus is also important in getting shortcuts in known places. This requires the application of cognitive mapping. Therefore, when there is malfunctioning of the hippocampus, the cognitive ability is also tempered with leading inconsistence in cognitive mapping.
Finally, severe brain injuries can lead to brain lapse or autism. The specific neurostructural reason behind the impairment of the brain memory in autism is still unclear, however memory lapse found in people with impaired brains may elaborate the clinical reasons behind this failure to encode and decode information specifically in the social side (Nancy, 1997). This leads to malfunction in the social talking and thinking domain. Brain injuries also cause abnormal functioning of the memory which in turn leads to general impairment in cognitive ability such core coherent weakness and executive functioning deficits of an individual. Nonetheless, with the presence of moderate autistic symptomatology, the adaptive function of cognitive mapping is enhanced unlike during brain injury when this moderate autistic symptomatology cannot be attained.