Handbook of Behavioral and Cognitive Geography
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Handbook of Behavioral and Cognitive Geography

Edited by Daniel R. Montello

This comprehensive Handbook summarizes existing work and presents new concepts and empirical results from leading scholars in the multidisciplinary field of behavioral and cognitive geography, the study of the human mind, and activity in and concerning space, place, and environment. It provides the broadest and most inclusive coverage of the field so far, including work relevant to human geography, cartography, and geographic information science.
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Chapter 21: Early geographic education: cognitive considerations

David H. Uttal


Adults know a great deal about geography, even if they have trouble locating particular countries on a map or cannot remember many state capitals. We know, for example, that there is a world beyond our direct experience and that maps are the primary means of representing geographical information. I refer to this informal understanding as implicit geography knowledge, and the focus of this chapter is on how this knowledge develops. The chapter reviews research on the development of children’s conceptions of space and place at different scales. The review suggests that even very young children can mentally represent small-scale spaces accurately, but that their knowledge of larger, geographic-scale spaces is more limited. Development consists in part of acquiring a mental model of the geographic-scale space. I consider research from cognitive development that may shed light on the developmental mechanisms that help children to extend what they understand about small-scale and large-scale space. The review suggests that geography education can begin at an early age, but that it should emphasize informal, playful activities that help children link maps and the spaces that they represent.

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