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From Cognitive Maps to Cognitive Graphs


We investigate the structure of spatial knowledge that spontaneously develops during free exploration of a novel environment. We present evidence that this structure is similar to a labeled graph: a network of topological connections between places, labeled with local metric information. In contrast to route knowledge, we find that the most frequent routes and detours to target locations had not been traveled during learning. Contrary to purely topological knowledge, participants typically traveled the shortest metric distance to a target, rather than topologically equivalent but longer paths. The results are consistent with the proposal that people learn a labeled graph of their environment.

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