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Cognitive maps: what they are and how to use them to learn or educate

Cognitive maps: what they are and how to use them to learn or educate

November 13, 2023

Learning, or the acquisition and assimilation of information or knowledge, is not something that occurs randomly, but people require a study and repetition through exercises or experiences to achieve the assimilation of any subject or concept.

However, there are a number of learning techniques that can facilitate this task, one of these techniques is to use the so-called cognitive maps . These cognitive maps are an excellent way to illustrate and capture a series of ideas or knowledge in order that the person can absorb and incorporate any type of information into their cognitive schemes.

  • Related article: "Educational psychology: definition, concepts and theories"

What are cognitive maps?

A cognitive map is a strategic tool that enables assimilation and retention of any type of information through the graphic representation of ideas and concepts. This representation is expressed through the use of sketches, diagrams or diagrams.

The name of this technique by the word "map" has a metaphorical meaning, since it is used as a kind of geographical map through which the person can unite different concepts.

These cognitive maps are established in different ways depending on the procedures for collecting, filtering and evaluating information what the person does In addition, it is also generated based on the information load that the person collects from the context in which it is located.

Another of its advantages is that they are moldable, and susceptible to change over time as the subject is adding information. As well as persistent and resistant to oblivion, as long as the person does not stop interacting with that context.

Main features

In addition to being an extremely useful tool for learning in any of the areas or subjects in which the subject may be involved, Cognitive maps have a series of characteristics :

  • They are beneficial for the systematization of any academic content, in and out of school .
  • They can help both the pedagogue as for the student when focusing on learning in specific subjects.
  • They are effective in the construction of very concise or concrete meanings.
  • They give the person the possibility of compare, differentiate, order, group and organize a lot of information.

Functionality of these resources

Given the relevance and advantages of cognitive maps, these can be extremely useful for four aspects of the teaching-learning process:

1. Learning meaning

By constituting a graphic representation of how the student's cognitive structure is ordered, it constitutes a basic strategy at the time of increase and improve memory management and memory of meanings , to make synthesis of concepts and simplify the self-evaluation.

2. Pedagogical strategy

The teacher or educator can use them as method to organize and plan the subjects or subjects of the academic curriculum .

3. Evaluation method

It can be of great use when comparing, evaluating and analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of the evaluation processes used by the teaching staff.

4. Educational resource

Cognitive maps form an excellent technique when it comes to organize the information or material that the student must learn or assimilate .

Given the number of functions and advantages that cognitive maps can come to possess, they should be seen as something more than a mere tool in the form of a schema that the student uses to organize information, making both students and teachers aware of the great amount of virtues and qualities that can have in the field of learning.


Like a map or learning scheme, internal maps have a concrete structure that facilitates the assimilation of information. This structure is divided into two: the external structure and the internal structure .

External structure

The external structure of cognitive maps is the one that encompasses the fundamental elements of this. These are:

  • Concepts : they are more similar to images and do not have to be identical in all people, since each subject captures the meaning or meanings of the concepts in one way or another.
  • Propositions : they constitute the union of several concepts through link locutions, thus establishing a semantic unit.
  • Link locutions : they are located adjacent to the union lines in order to explain or specify the meaning of what is being expressed.
  • Union lines : lines that function as a link between propositions.

As far as the internal structure is concerned, this is what makes the cognitive map such an effective cognitive tool. This internal structure includes:

  • Hierarchy : the concepts must be ordered according to their degree of relevance or inclusiveness. The more inclusive a concept or more information it contains, the more it must occupy a higher place within the structure.
  • Sections : It must be organized in different sections that contain the most relevant information on a subject.
  • Visual clarity : the structure must be visual and clear, highlighting the most important concepts or propositions of the subject.

Types of cognitive maps

There are numerous variants, already pre-established, of cognitive maps. The most popular are described below.

Cognitive map of type sun

The cognitive map of the sun type constitutes a scheme with a figure similar to that of a sun, which has a main theme in the center and from which are placed the concepts or ideas that are related to that topic.

The main function of this type of map is to introduce and organize a concept or theme, along with its main characteristics or descriptions.

Cognitive map of clouds

It forms a diagram consisting of figures in the form of clouds, within which information is available. As in the sun-type map, it is based on a main idea or theme, from which the subtopics that appear around it originate .

It is a technique when it comes to organizing and internalizing the characteristics of a particular topic.

Cognitive map of cycles

It is a type of sketch in which the ordered information is recorded according to a chronological or sequence arrangement , which ends up obtaining the form of a continuous seriation through the use of circles or arrows.

The beginning of the series must be noted in the upper circle, while in the rest of the circles the following stages are recorded.

It is a very useful diagram to symbolize temporary information or in the form of a circuit.

Cognitive map of common aspects

In this type of diagram two different sections linked by a common area are established. It is a very interesting technique if what you want is detect principles, fundamentals or common ideas between two themes .

Cognitive map of bad water

The configuration of this scheme seems to simulate the structure of a jellyfish, noting in the upper area the title of the subject or idea, followed by a series of boxes with the subtopics or divisions of ideas. Finally, the characteristics or principles of each sub-theme are recorded in vertical lines .

The used of this type of cognitive map is to organize the contents according to their themes, sub-themes and main ideas derived from them.

What is COGNITIVE MAP? What does COGNITIVE MAP mean? COGNITIVE MAP meaning, definition & explanation (November 2023).

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