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In Psychological science ; h5-index 93.0

Cognitive maps are assumed to be fundamentally spatial and grounded only in perceptual processes, as supported by the discovery of functionally dedicated cell types in the human brain, which tile the environment in a maplike fashion. Challenging this view, we demonstrate that spatial representations-such as large-scale geographical maps-can be as well retrieved with high confidence from natural language through cognitively plausible artificial-intelligence models on the basis of nonspatial associative-learning mechanisms. More critically, we show that linguistic information accounts for the specific distortions observed in tasks when college-age adults have to judge the geographical positions of cities, even when these positions are estimated on real maps. These findings indicate that language experience can encode and reproduce cognitive maps without the need for a dedicated spatial-representation system, thus suggesting that the formation of these maps is the result of a strict interplay between spatial- and nonspatial-learning principles.

Gatti Daniele, Marelli Marco, Vecchi Tomaso, Rinaldi Luca


associative-learning mechanisms, cognitive maps, distributional-semantic models, open data, open materials, semantic memory, spatial representations