Human spatial representation: Insights from animals

Ranxiao Frances Wang, Elizabeth S. Spelke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Human navigation is special: we use geographic maps to capture a world far beyond our unaided locomotion. In consequence, human navigation is widely thought to depend on internalized versions of these maps - enduring, geocentric 'cognitive maps' capturing diverse information about the environment. Contrary to this view, we argue that human navigation is best studied in relation to research on navigating animals as humble as ants. This research provides evidence that animals, including humans, navigate primarily by representations that are momentary rather than enduring, egocentric rather than geocentric, and limited in the environmental information that they capture. Uniquely human forms of navigation build on these representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-382
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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