In 1948, the psychologist Edward Tolman described experiments where
rats were trained to follow a path through a complex maze to reach
a food box. After the rats performed perfectly (chose the shortest
way to reach the goal), the trained path was blocked; the rats had
to select another path from a variety of alternatives. Astonishingly,
most of the rats found a path that was close to the most direct
connection to the food box, whereas not a single rat erroneously
tried to follow the original path on which they had been trained.
On the basis of these findings, Tolman argued the rats had "acquired
not merely a strip-map . . . but, rather, a wider comprehensive
map to the effect that the food was located in such and such a direction
in the room" (p. 204). Tolman's paper, entitled "Cognitive
maps in rats and men," marked the starting point of psychological
spatial cognition research. Today there is a great body of evidence
on how humans (and animals) learn routes, find ways, navigate through
familiar and unknown environments, and on the strategies they use
when they get lost.
research on robotics and AI is concerned with similar problems.
For example, how must a mobile robot system be designed to improve
its efficiency for tasks such as route choice and navigation? Certainly,
the robot must acquire an internal representation of the environment
- a cognitive map - and apply adequate procedures to plan movements.
A related problem is in the domain of geoinformatics. A geographic
information system must be able to efficiently store, process and
retrieve geo-referenced data, i.e. data which is associated with
locations defined in a geographic reference system. On the other
hand, it should also interact with the user in a comprehensible
way, that is, it should take the user's mental representations of
spatial knowledge into account. Applications such location-based
services, geovisualization or semantic information retrieval lead
to an especially close interaction between human and machine reasoning.
International Spatial Cognition Summer Institute (ISCSI)
is based on the assumption that the critical issues pertaining to
spatial cognition lie at the intersection of a number of disciplines
- in particular, cognitive psychology, computer science, neuroscience,
artificial intelligence, and geography. The aim of the Summer Institute
on Spatial Cognition is to intensify dialogue and connectedness
across the various disciplines. In addition, the Summer Institute
is geared to provide people from all over the world with interdisciplinary
ISCSI offers intensive lectures, tutorials, and workshops in the
cognitive, computational, neuroscientific aspects of spatial cognition
in humans and artificial systems.