I have the daunting task to do a seminar about the psychology of cartography. I have zero training in this field and would like to ask if anyone has ever tackled this angle?...I would like to generalize this somewhat and start with the fact that humans think in images, and then maybe narrow it down to symbology, meaning and perception of colour and shape, symbolism and also maybe iconography...but I may be going too deep.

Does anyone know of any good site, literature, YouTube links etc. which could inspire me?


3 Answers 3


Mark Monmonier's "How to Lie with Maps" may also have some good information. It isn't directed at psychology directly but may have some applicable information - especially regarding the role of map symbology in perception.

  • That would be my advice too! Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 19:04

There are number of them – in fact, it's an enormous number of them.

  1. A good starting point is Alan MacEachren's "How Maps Work: Representation, Visualization, and Design". http://www.amazon.com/How-Maps-Work-Representation-Visualization/dp/157230040X
  2. Not unrelatedly: http://www.cognitivegiscience.psu.edu/publications.html
  3. You may also find Bertin's classic book, "Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps" useful: http://www.amazon.com/Semiology-Graphics-Diagrams-Networks-Maps/dp/1589482611
  • +1 MacEachren also has a largish bibliography (26 pp), which is a useful entry to further reading.
    – whuber
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 22:57

A good introduction is this cited paper

"Cognition in Cartography"

A cognitive spatial representation (or image) depends upon more than visual input it is an integrated, multimodal representation.


Cognition is an import factor in the psychology of cartography - background knowledge of the viewer/user influences their decision and interpretation of the map they are visualizing.

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