Human Cognition: People in the World and World in their Minds

Human Cognition: People in the World and World in their Minds

Zdenek Stachon (Masaryk University, Czech Republic) and Cenek Šašinka (Masaryk University, Czech Republic)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0327-1.ch005


Human cognition is a complex process of processing information. It is highly influenced by different factors, such as general concepts, individual characteristics, etc. This chapter deals with the topic of cognition of spatial information. Evolution of cognition is described and evaluated in it. The adaptive function of cognition is discussed in the context of ecological psychology. The current approaches to cognition problems are introduced, and the basic terms and concepts are explained. The ratio of cultural influence is compared with the influence of personality traits and the developmental stage of the individual. The aim of the chapter is to outline possible difficulties of designing a universal ontology describing geographic space on an interregional and global scale.
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Geographic space is a system of entities and actions (Câmara, Monteiro, Paiva, & Souza, 2000), and the ontology can be defined as the study of general classifications of things that exist in the world, and of relationships between them (Worboys & Duckham, 2004). People who create their opinions and judgments (actions) under the influence of the surrounding environment and their own experiences are one of the most important entities in the real world. Experiences come from the environment itself and also from the cultural background. Generally the opinions and judgments are important especially for communication and communication requires sharing of ontology (Smith & Mark, 1998). Understanding influences coming from the surrounding environment is crucial for approving or disapproving the possibility of existence and formation of universal ontology.

Basic ontological sophistication is complementary to modelling activities; therefore the potential errors during the process of universal ontology designing can be similar. Typical modelling errors which arise from lack of ontological awareness include failing to distinguish real world entities from information system entities and failing to distinguish substances from their properties (Worboys & Duckham, 2004), Thereby designing of universal ontology primarily requires detailed understanding of the fundamentals of real environment and its processes especially human mind as previously mentioned.

It is necessary to explore two large domains: The world-in-itself and the entity which lives in the world and perceives it. We made it easier for us and we have started from basic premises that the world-in-itself exists independent from our minds and even more, that it can be objectively explored and identified. But, for example, some followers of solipsism do not hold this first view (Thornton, 2004) and radical constructivists will argue against the second premise that the world can be explored objectively. That it is possible to come to objective knowledge (Kenny, 2007). Fay (1996) argues that the term critical intersubjectivity in social sciences is more appropriate then the term objectivity.

If we want to create a descriptive system of geographic space (universal ontology) it has to be comprehensible for all possible users. Therefore it has to correspond with how all these people perceive and think. In case of universal ontology of geographical space in can be possibly anyone with basic computer skills. We try to show many examples of the interindividual and intercultural differences in cognitive processes in this chapter. We take into account the ontological aspects of cognition and also the differences in cognitive functions and sensations organs from a phylogenetic point of view. There are also presented some current research themes of psychology resp. cognitive science which help to sketch out the character of human perception and cognition.

There are various approaches to questions of the perception and theories of cognitive processes. One of them identifies cognitive style as significant influence on human perception thus on final opinions and judgments. The differences in how various people or whole cultures are processing information with the surrounding environment play key role in Geographic space understanding. Development and differences of human cognition of spatial information can be demonstrated, e.g., on cartographic production.

This chapter in general focuses on evidence of the existence of universal ontology of geographic space based on the study of a psychological approach to the human cognition and chosen examples of spatial representations from different cultural and temporal backgrounds.

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