Cognitive Processing

, Volume 13, Supplement 1, pp 209–214 | Cite as

Formally grounding spatio-temporal thinking

  • Alexander KlippelEmail author
  • Jan Oliver Wallgrün
  • Jinlong Yang
  • Rui Li
  • Frank Dylla
Short Report


To navigate through daily life, humans use their ability to conceptualize spatio-temporal information, which ultimately leads to a system of categories. Likewise, the spatial sciences rely heavily on conceptualization and categorization as means to create knowledge when they process spatio-temporal data. In the spatial sciences and in related branches of artificial intelligence, an approach has been developed for processing spatio-temporal data on the level of coarse categories: qualitative spatio-temporal representation and reasoning (QSTR). Calculi developed in QSTR allow for the meaningful processing of and reasoning with spatio-temporal information. While qualitative calculi are widely acknowledged in the cognitive sciences, there is little behavioral assessment whether these calculi are indeed cognitively adequate. This is an astonishing conundrum given that these calculi are ubiquitous, are often intended to improve processes at the human–machine interface, and are on several occasions claimed to be cognitively adequate. We have systematically evaluated several approaches to formally characterize spatial relations from a cognitive-behavioral perspective for both static and dynamically changing spatial relations. This contribution will detail our framework, which is addressing the question how formal characterization of space can help us understand how people think with, in, and about space.


Qualitative spatial reasoning Formalized cognition Similarity measures 



This research is funded by the National Science Foundation (#0924534). Additionally, F. Dylla acknowledges funding by German Research Organization (DFG) SFB/TR8 Spatial Cognition.

Conflict of interest

This supplement was not sponsored by outside commercial interests. It was funded entirely by ECONA, Via dei Marsi, 78, 00185 Roma, Italy


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Klippel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jan Oliver Wallgrün
    • 1
  • Jinlong Yang
    • 1
  • Rui Li
    • 1
  • Frank Dylla
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geography, GeoVISTA CenterThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.SFB/TR8 Spatial CognitionUniversity of BremenBremenGermany

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