Seeing the big picture: Map use and the development of spatial cognition

David H Uttal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


This paper considers the relation between the development of spatial cognition and children's use of maps and models. A new theoretical perspective is presented that takes into account the influences of maps on the development of spatial cognition. Maps provide a perspective on spatial information that differs in important ways from the perspective gained from direct experience navigating in the world. Using and thinking about maps may help children to acquire abstract concepts of space and the ability to think systematically about spatial relations that they have not experienced directly. In addition, exposure to maps may help children to think about multiple spatial relations among multiple locations. The results of previous studies that have demonstrated developmental differences in children's cognition of large-scale environments are examined from this theoretical perspective. This review suggests that the development of spatial cognition consists partly of the acquisition of models of large-scale space, and that maps influence the development of the modern Western model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-264
Number of pages18
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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