Maps in People's Heads: Assessing a New Measure of Context

Cara Wong, Jake Bowers, Daniel Rubenson, Mark Fredrickson, Ashlea Rundlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To understand the relationship between place and politics, we must measure both political attitudes and the ways in which place is represented in the minds of individuals. In this paper, we assess a new measure of mental representation of geography, in which survey respondents draw their own local communities on maps and describe them. We use a panel study in Canada to present evidence that these maps are both valid and reliable measures of a personally relevant geographic area, laying the measurement groundwork for the growing number of studies using this technology. We hope to set efforts to measure place for the study of context and politics on firmer footing. Our validity assessments show that individuals are thinking about people and places with which they have regular contact when asked to draw their communities. Our reliability assessments show that people can draw more or less the same map twice, even when the exercise is repeated months later. Finally, we provide evidence that the concept of community is a tangible consideration in the minds of ordinary citizens and is not simply a normative aspiration or motivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-168
Number of pages9
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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