Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Cognitive Map

A cognitive map is a mental representation of an agent's spatial world, and of the agent's location within this mapped world. The term cognitive map can be traced back to Tolman's (1948) seminal paper in Psychological Review. More modern interest in the notion of cognitive maps occurred in the 1970s with the discovery of place cells in the hippocampus. These cells fire when an agent's head is located at a particular place in space, and their discovery led to the view that hippocampus was the area of the brain in which cognitive maps were created (O'Keefe & Nadel, 1978). Cognitive map research has proceeded at a feverish pace since that time, with work that has re-evaluated the hippocampal cognitive map notion (Redish, 1999), that has used global geometric properties to define the organizing principles of the cognitive map (Gallistel, 1990), and that has used biological cognitive maps to inspire working models of robot navigation (Burgess et al., 1997)


  1. Burgess, N., Donnett, J. G., Jeffery, K. J., & O'Keefe, J. (1997). Robotic and neuronal simulation of the hippocampus and rat navigation. Philosophical Transactions Of the Royal Society Of London, B, 352, 1535-1543.
  2. Gallistel, C. R. (1990). The Organization Of Learning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  3. O'Keefe, J., & Nadel, L. (1978). The Hippocampus As A Cognitive Map. Oxford: Clarendon Press
  4. Redish, A. D. (1999). Beyond The Cognitive Map. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  5. Tolman, E. C. (1948). Cognitive maps in rats and men. Psychological Review, 55, 189-208.

(Added March 2010)