How significant are cultural differences in spatial cognition?

  • Daniel R. Montello
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 988)


In this essay, I critically discuss ideas about cultural differences in spatial cognition. A critique of the traditional empiricist framework for understanding the development of cognitive structures and processes is described. An evolutionary framework is provided as an alternative. The ambiguity between culture-related and culturally caused differences is also elaborated. Reasons for cultural universality in spatial cognition are then considered. With these ideas as background, some aspects of spatial cognition are enumerated that I believe are largely culturally universal. Following that, aspects that may show more significant cultural variability are discussed. In particular, the relationship of spatial language to spatial thought is addressed in some depth. I conclude that cultural differences in spatial cognition are not nearly as substantial as is often claimed. Finally, the extent to which cultural differences in spatial cognition are important for geographic information system (GIS) research and design is considered.


Geographic Information System Cultural Difference Cultural Group Spatial Cognition Residential Environment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel R. Montello
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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