Multiple Mental Maps (07-20-20)

Researchers have found that the mental maps we use to keep track of social relationships are similar to those we develop in our minds to help us find our way from one place to another. A press release from the University of California, Davis, describing a study conducted by Boorman, Park, Miller, Ranganath, and Nili and published in Neuron, states “Even in these social-distanced days, we keep in our heads a map of our relationships with other people: family, friends, co-workers and how they relate to each other. New research . . .  shows that we put together this social map in much the same way that we assemble a map of physical places and things. . . . The study points to a general principle behind how we make decisions based on past experience. Whether we are remembering a route in the physical world, or learning about a set of friends and acquaintances, we start with a template, such as a 2D topology, and a few landmarks, and fit new data around them.” This finding may support the design of effective wayfinding systems, for example.

“Brain Builds and Uses Maps of Social Networks, Physical Space, in the Same Way.”  2020.  Press release, University of California, Davis,