Spatial Schemas and Abstract Thought

Edited by Merideth Gattis

Humans and other animals depend on their ability to perceive and represent spatial aspects of the world. We learn spatial schemas by observing the locations and movements of objects (including people) and the configuration of our environment. This book explores the role these spatial schemas play in abstract, nonspatial tasks. Evidence suggests that we adapt spatial schemas for three basic purposes in abstract cognition: to structure memory, to structure communication, and to structure reasoning.

Are spatial schemas mere metaphors that help us to understand cognitive processes or are they actual internal mechanisms? Evidence for the latter suggests that the cognitive structures we develop to perceive, navigate, and remember space are the indispensable foundation of more abstract cognitive tasks. This book proposes the means by which spatial structures might be adapted for nonspatial purposes, and it considers alternatives to spatial coding as a basis for abstract thought.

The book is organized into three parts: the representation and use of space, spatial schemas in cultural contexts, and the kinds of computational and neurological structures that might be involved in abstract thought. The contributors include cognitive psychologists, developmental psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, and computer scientists.

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. 1. Space as a Basis for Abstract Thought

    Merideth Gattis

  3. I. Representing and Using Space
  4. 2. Spatial Representation and the Use of Spatial Codes in Animals

    William A. Roberts

  5. 3. Thinking through Maps

    Lynn S. Liben

  6. 4. Spatial schemas in Depictions

    Barbara Tversky

  7. II. Spatial Schemas in Cultural Contexts
  8. 5. Cultural Specificity of Spatial Schemas as Manifested in Spontaneous Gestures

    Sotaro Kita, Eve Danzinger and Christel Stolz

  9. 6. Space on Hand: The Exploitation of Signing Space to Illustrate Abstract Thought

    Karen Emmorey

  10. 7. Children's Mathematics: Lost and Found in Space

    Peter Bryant and Sarah Squire

  11. III. Adapting Space for Abstract Thought
  12. 8. Spatial Metaphors in Temporal Reasoning

    Dedre Gentner

  13. 9. Reading Pictures: Constraints on Mapping Conceptual and Spatial Schemas

    Merideth Gattis

  14. 10. Spatial Representation as Cause and Effect: Circular Causality Comes to Cognition

    Brendan McGonigle and Margaret Chalmers

  15. 11. A Process Model of Human Transitive Inference

    John E. Hummel and Keith J. Holyoak

  16. References
  17. Contributors
  18. Name Index
  19. Subject Index