Expert and Non-expert Knowledge of Loosely Structured Environments

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Abstract

Three experiments investigated expert and non-expert knowledge of a familiar but loosely structured spatial environment as revealed through the production of sketch maps. In the first experiment, experts and non-experts in geomatics sketched maps of a well-known park. The analysis of the maps revealed that experts and non-experts used different drawing strategies that reflected different mental representations. In the second experiment, new participants identified good and poor examples from the previous maps. Expert and non-expert evaluators agreed, indicating that experts and non-experts alike agree on what constitutes a “good map”. In the third experiment, people familiar and unfamiliar with the park were asked to remove non-essential features from a consolidated map that incorporated all the features drawn by the participants of the first experiment. Those familiar and unfamiliar with the environment retained the same features, notably, the paths in the park. Together, the research shows that experts produce superior maps to non-experts, but that people, irrespective of expertise and familiarity, concur on the features that make a map effective. Even for relatively unstructured environments like a large park, people seek structure in the configuration of paths. These findings have implications for the design of maps.