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Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 2006, volume 33, pages 285 ^ 299


Knowledge of the environment and spatial cognition: JRS as a technique for improving comparisons between social groups
Thierry Ramadier, Anne-Christine Bronner

Louis Pasteur 3, rue de l'Argonne, Laboratoire Image et Ville, UMR 7011 CNRS Universite 67000 Strasbourg, France; e-mail:, Received 23 February 2005; in revised form 19 May 2005

Abstract. In this paper we compare the sketch-map technique with a spatial modelling task based on a set of eight separate items. The aim of the comparison is to verify, thanks to a special spatial reconstruction set, Jeu de reconstruction spatiale (JRS), whether the difficulties often encountered by unskilled persons when asked to draw a sketch map can be avoided. If so, the JRS could help to improve comparisons between different social groups. Thirty university students majoring in geography and twenty-one unskilled staff members were asked to represent the centre of Strasbourg both by drawing a sketch and with the JRS. The results show that, on one hand, the difference between the two groups regarding the number of items mentioned is smaller with the JRS than with the sketch map. On the other hand, in both groups, the same proportion of respondents increased the number of urban elements produced in the second trial with the JRS. This was not the case with the sketch map. Also, the JRS is more stable than the sketch map from one trial to the next. Furthermore, the respondents preferred the JRS to the sketch map. However, the JRS is more suggestive than the sketch map, but only for elements which are more rarely represented (railway tracks, etc). Thus, in terms of scientific research, the JRS makes it possible to improve comparisons between social groups. In terms of applications, it offers interesting possibilities for promoting citizen participation in urban planning.

Ever since Lynch (1960) published his study on the cognitive representations of space, the sketch-map technique has become increasingly popular as a way of expressing a cognitive image of space. The past forty years of practice have yielded numerous methodological variations (Kitchin and Blades, 2002), and most importantly this technique has spread to many disciplines such as psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, the study of child development, psychiatric tests, architecture, and geography (Golledge, 2003). In this respect we are faced with a paradox: very few validity tests have been performed on the sketch-map technique, and, on the other hand, its methodological advantages and drawbacks can be determined thanks to the experience gathered by researchers using this technique. For example, what do we know about the validity of this technique when comparing social groups? Researchers' accounts provide a few insights but very few tests have actually been carried out. We will try to answer this question by comparing the sketch map with another graphic technique. The popularity of the sketch map is due first and foremost to the fact that such a test is easy to organise. First, it does not require any sophisticated equipment. Second, the procedure can be adapted to the objectives of the research, to the site, the population, the spatial scale. Third, it is a well-known technique, it is easy to explain because it is taken from daily life. Indeed, many people use it to show where to go or how to get to a given place. In other words, it has strong ecological validity (Kitchin and Blades, 2002). Fourth, compared with other techniques such as the ``stimulus comparison data'', the sketch map is more pleasurable for the respondent, because it is less repetitive and less tedious (Baird, 1979). Furthermore, this technique also makes it possible to work on the elements expressed by the respondent, instead of performing


T Ramadier, A-C Bronner

analyses on urban items selected by the researcher on the basis of a pilot study performed on another sample, as is the case in the `multidimensional-scaling' (MDS) technique. In other words, the external validity of this technique is higher. Compared with the MDS technique, the sketch map is less sensitive to interindividual variability (Baird, 1979). In one of the rare tests of this technique, Blades (1990) has shown that it is also reliable. The results show that an individual who draws a familiar itinerary will draw the same itinerary one week later. In other words, the individual validity of the sketch map is known and is satisfactory. The study of the sketches is particularly rewarding because it is possible to analyse them on three separate levels. On one hand we can study the selective and changing content of the spatial representation. In addition, it is also possible to study spatial relationships between different locations, without excluding analyses of certain categories of items (roads, limits, nodes, neighbourhoods, and landmarks). Thus, the sketch has the considerable advantage of expressing information concerning both physical elements and spatial relationships, such as distortions (Ramadier, 2003). Also, analyses of sketch maps can focus on different observable spatial structures. Despite all these advantages, the use of the sketch-map technique has been widely criticised. In terms of analysis, according to Byrne (1979), the result depends on the point of departure chosen by the person to perform the requested task. However, this ruch, 1992). Baird observation corresponds to a functional variability (Giraudo and Pe et al (1982) have observed that the graphic production technique is difficult to analyse and interpret because the scale of the sketch and the details vary from one individual to another. However, this drawback can be overcome by constructing, at low cost, a standard grid adaptable to the scale of each sketch (Ramadier, 1997). The most significant criticism concerns the postulate of a correspondence between sketch and mental representation. Downs and Stea (1977) believe that the instruction to ``draw a map'' encourages the respondents to decode the information in spatial terms, on the basis of the presupposition that the information was internalised in those terms; but this is far from certain. Similarly, Milgram and Jodelet (1976) underscore the fact that the maps thus collected do not represent in any way the respondents' mental maps as they use them in their everyday lives. In the same vein Canter (1977) observes that a spatial product involves four cognitive actions which are not necessarily at work when an individual is using his or her spatial representation as a support for daily activities: (1) directing oneself in spacethat is, reproducing in spatial terms the relationship between two elements that belong to the individual's mental representation; (2) reducing a large-scale spatial expanse to the size of a sheet of paper; (3) drawing geometric projections; and (4) giving a symbolic image of elements belonging to one's mental representation. For Dussart (1978), this last point raises another problem. According to this author, if one looks at this technique from the point of view of its function, then the aim of the sketch is not to express something but to provide information. In that sense its language is common to the respondent and to the researcher. Siegel (1981) also believes that this technique enables the researcher to grasp the respondents' ability to express his representation of space more than the representation itself. In other words we are facing a methodological barrier, whereby we only have access to the representation of a representation. Le Ny (1985) establishes a distinction between two large categories of representations: artificial (or constructed) representations and natural representations. One of the characteristics of the artificial representation is that it is designed for someone else, whereas a natural representation is only useful to the person who produces it. In that sense it can even be completely esoteric. However, this methodological limit is true for any technique used for representational purposes.

Knowledge of the environment and spatial cognition


If the question of communicating cognitive representations concerns all individuals and all methods, the function of the sketch map is certainly not the same in different social groups. Our hypothesis is thus that the internal validity of the interpretations of comparisons between social groups is not very high when using the sketch-map technique. Indeed, Francescato and Mebane (1973) have observed that persons belonging to the lower social classes more often refuse to draw a sketch map. Magana (1978) also observed that the graphic productions of the middle classes are more difficult to process than those of upper classes, because many include fewer than four items. On the other hand, according to the author, the free-listing technique, whereby the respondent makes a list of known elements, does not reveal any class differences, neither in the number of elements recalled nor as concerns the respondents' reticence to perform the requested task. This brings us back to Lynch's comment (1960) that people draw less than they talk. However, as remarked by Fisher et al (1984), the upper classes are usually more at ease with graphic production tasks and tend to use geographic maps more often than other social classes. In other words, the ability to draw is not equally shared by the different social classes. Communicating a representation through drawing discriminates individuals according to their social group because they do not have the same degree of familiarity with paper-and-pencil tasks. This means that graph motor skills and competences linked to abstractionthat is, aiming to provide a symbolic representation of an elementare not equivalent from one social group to the next. Several studies (Baldy et al, 1992; Pailhous and Vergnaud, 1989) have indeed shown that unskilled adults have difficulties drawing, especially in conditions in which the respondents are asked to remember information compared with conditions in which ruch (1992) have they are asked to copy (Baldy et al, 1992). In addition, Giraudo and Pe shown that the impact of cognitive performancessuch as changing scales and geometric projectionson the sketch is relative. Indeed, when asked to represent space, the cognitive performance of more than half of the sample of unskilled adults was the same as that of adults with a high social and educational level, and a small number of persons had serious trouble projecting surrounding space on a sheet of paper. The authors concluded that the difficulty in representing space is more heterogeneously distributed among unskilled adults than among skilled adults. Spatial-cognition researchers have made variations in the sketch-map procedure, and have suggested a sketch-map language (Wood, 1976), usable especially by children. They have also created two alternative techniques to obtain information on the configuration of spatial knowledge: (1) tasks involving the completion of a map or a drawing, with a view to reducing the drawing component, and (2) recognition tasks with the help of a map or an aerial photograph. Kitchin (1996) compared both procedures with the sketch-map technique. Although the social and cultural homogeneity of the sample was high (geography students), the author observed that the data varied considerably according to the techniques used, although none could be considered better than the others. For the purpose of a social comparison, Bridel and Delapierre (1982) used a Polaroid photographic camera to collect spatial representations. In this case, unlike the photograph-recognition task, the individual plays an active part. However, not everyone has similar competence in the use of a photographic camera and an image does not yield the same meaning for different social groups. Also, just as in the unidimensional data-collecting techniques direction tasks, distance tasks (Kitchin and Blades, 2002)these exercises do not provide any information concerning the configuration of spatial knowledge. However, our aim is to compare social groups through a technique preserving the external, individual, and ecological validity of the sketch map. This is possible only through a graphic task


T Ramadier, A-C Bronner

which reflects the configuration of spatial knowledge. The only task that comes close to this without involving drawing is the modelling of cognitive representation thanks to a set of standardised items. Our hypothesis is that a space-modelling task should improve the internal validity of a comparison between the cognitive representations of different social groups, contrasted according to social and educational criteria. Indeed, this task does not require graph motor skills or familiarity with paper-and-pencil type exercises. In addition, the necessity of creating abstract forms is reduced, thanks to the presentation of a set of standardised items which can be made to represent certain categories of physical elements. On the other hand, the three levels of analysis provided by the sketch-map technique can be preserved. This technique has been used with children (Hart, 1981; Piaget et al, 1960; Siegel and Schadler, 1977) and blind persons (Blades et al, 2002; Passini and Proulx, 1988; Ungar et al, 1997). It seems to have been avoided with other adults because its cost is higher than that of the sketch map. Indeed, the material must first be elaborated by the researcher in order to ensure its adequateness to the aims of the task (financial cost and time cost). Also, it is cumbersome, both in terms of transportation and during the test itself (cost in terms of space). In addition, it requires a longer phase of explanation of the material and task than the sketch map. Whereas in terms of space it is difficult to compete with an A3 format sheet of paper and a pencil, in terms of financial cost the set of modelling blocks can compete with the cost of paper and pencil if the material has been designed to be reused. The cost of the time taken to explain the task and carry it out depends on the characteristics of the set (number of items, figurative aspect, flexibility, procedure requested of the respondent, etc). In addition to its cost, this technique is less flexible than the sketch technique because it implies that the shape and number of items must be defined beforehand. The flexibility of the material is highest when the set of items is made up of all the elements that can be found in the studied space (Siegel and Schadler, 1977). In this case the constraint would be the scale of the surrounding environment, because this would be possible only in a very limited space such as a room. The spatial reconstruction set presented below was elaborated on the basis of these various constraints; several copies were made in order to test it as a possible alternative to the sketch map in situations of comparison between social groups. Methodology The fifty-one respondents were divided into two groups on the basis of their socioeducational level: on one hand a group of thirty third-year university students majoring in geography, and on the other hand twenty-one staff members of the Louis Pasteur University who have not received a higher education (maintenance and kitchen). All the individuals belonging to the sample worked or studied in the same neighbourhood of the city, near the historical centre of Strasbourg. The proportion of respondents who had lived for at least eight months in another city was about the same in both groups (53.3% of the students and 57.0% of the staff members). However, the proportion of students living in the city centre (63.3%) was higher than that of staff members (42.9%). All other respondents live in the Strasbourg area. The average age of the students was 23.27 years (standard deviation 1X87) and they had been living in the Strasbourg area for an average of 5.74 years (standard deviation 5X80). The average age of the staff members was 43.75 (standard deviation 9X82) and they had been living in the Strasbourg area for an average of

Knowledge of the environment and spatial cognition


24.72 years (standard deviation 12X29).None of the respondents had ever practised the plastic arts on a regular basis.
Field of study

The chosen field of study for collecting the spatial representation of both groups was the centre of Strasbourg, because this location corresponded to the place of work or study of the respondents, and was frequented by both groups on a daily basis. No precise limits were given for the city centre. If a person inquired about the limits we would answer that it is up to her or him to define what she or he believes is the city centre, because we are interested in what she or he knows. We would also add that there are no right or wrong answers in this task. The general assignment was the following: ``what do you know about the centre of Strasbourg?'' The tests took place in university facilities. They were taken collectively and the worktables were prepared before the arrival of the respondents. Two tools were used: on one hand the sketch map and on the other a spatial reconstruction set Jeu de reconstruction spatiale (JRS), which enables the user to model space with standardised items. In the first case a sheet of white paper of A3 format was provided, with an eraser, a `lead' pencil, and a red pencil. Visual screens prevented the respondent from seeing what his or her neighbour was doing. The assignment was the following: ``To answer this question, we ask you to reproduce the city centre on this sheet of paper [indicating the sheet] by drawing a simple sketch.'' The respondents were asked to number each element, as they drew it, with the red pencil. They were given 15 minutes for this task. In the case of the spatial reconstruction set (JRS), we presented a tray with eight items, which had the following characteristics and functions: The tray [figure 1(a), over], made of plywood (5 mm thick) covered with yellow felt. The tray's dimensions are 80 cm 70 cm. When folded along a metallic hinge (for transportation purposes) its dimensions are only 40 cm 70 cm (thickness 12 mm). The set of items used to provide a cognitive representation of the given space are placed on this tray. The felt provides a uniform background and prevents the items from slipping off. The red houses [figure 1(b)] are made of wood; they measure 1.5 cm at the base and their height is 1.7 cm. The roof is painted red. The red houses represent small buildings or individual houses, such as shops, residences, or services. The blocks [figure 1(c)] are made of wood and they are 2.5 cm wide, 4.0 cm high, and 1.5 cm deep. The blocks are used to represent high buildings, wide buildings, or buildings that take up a great deal of ground space. The housing blocks [figure 1(d)] are red slabs (size 4 cm 4 cm) on which three wooden houses have been glued. Each roof is a different colour: red, blue, and green. The houses are the same size as the red houses (1.5 cm wide at the base and 1.7 cm high). These blocks represent housing blocks or neighbourhoods, regardless of scale. The green blocks [figure 1(e)] are square and 3 mm thick. They come in two sizes. Their sides measure 2 cm for the smaller blocks and 4 cm for the larger blocks. The green blocks represent green areas, parks, gardens, etc. They can be placed side by side to represent a bigger area. Another element, such as a red house, a block, or a cord can be superimposed onto this item. The blue blocks [figure 1(f )] are square and 3 mm thick. They come in two sizes. Their sides measure 2 cm for the smaller blocks and 4 cm for the larger blocks. The blue blocks are used to represent public places or surface parking lots. They can be placed
Tools and procedures


T Ramadier, A-C Bronner




(d) (e) (f ) (g) Figure 1. Examples of items composing the spatial reconstruction set, Jeu de reconstruction spatiale : (a) the tray, (b) a red house, (c) blocks, (d) housing blocks, (e) green blocks, (f ) blue blocks and (g) red, black, and blue cord.

side by side to represent a bigger area. Another element, such as a red house, a block or a cord can be superimposed onto them. The red, black, or blue cords [figure 1(g)] can be cut to the necessary dimension and can be given any shape. The red cord represents roadways: paths, streets, roads, avenues, highways, etc. The black cord represents railway tracks: train tracks, streetcar and subway tracks, etc. The blue cord represents waterways, or ponds or lakes if shaped in a circle. A pair of scissors is provided with which to cut the cord, along with a set of stickers to number the items on the tray. The instruction given to the respondents was quite similar to that given for the sketch assignment: ``To answer this question, we ask you to reproduce the city centre on this tray [indicating the tray] with a set of items that I am going to show you.'' The respondents were also asked to number each element on the tray with the prenumbered stickers. Fifteen minutes were allotted to this task. An example of a spatial reconstruction produced by a respondent, along with a sketch map produced by the same correspondent, is shown in figure 2. When the time was up, each respondent was asked to fill in a table, with the following instructions: ``This table aims to identify what you have built or drawn. In the first column write the number of the item on your tray or sketch, in the second column explain what it represents. If possible, please write the name of the item, but you can also describe ne ral de Gaulle', `a it if you do not know its name (`the avenue leading to Place Ge friend's house', etc). Do not hesitate to ask questions if you encounter any difficulties.'' After each session the respondents filled in a short questionnaire (about 15 minutes), which provided information on their sociodemographic backgrounds, the problems encountered while performing the task, whether they preferred one or the other technique, and how long they had been living in the city.

Knowledge of the environment and spatial cognition




Figure 2. Example of (a) a spatial reconstruction, and (b) a sketch map, performed by the same person.

In order to compare the use of the techniques between social groups, both tasks were performed, with an interval of one week. However, to counter the order effect (test ^ retest effect), we reversed the order in which the tasks were performed for half of the respondents. Thus, half of each group began with the sketch map and performed the JRS one week later, and the other half performed the tasks in the opposite order with the same time interval (see table 1).
Table 1. Structure of the sample. Order of tasks JRS,a sketch Sketch, JRSa Total

Students 12 18 30

Workers 10 11 21

Total 22 29 51

Jeu de reconstruction spatiale, a spatial reconstruction set.

The number of items present in the graphic production

The order effect Overall, the JRS enabled both the unskilled personnel and the students to produce a few more items (averages: 19.57 and 26.67, respectively) than the sketch map averages: 18.76 and 24.30, respectively). However, this result is not statistically significant for two reasons. The first and main reason is that an experimentally counterbalanced order effect can mask the group effect on the performance of each technique. Thus (see table 2, over), on one hand, all tasks considered, the respondents mentioned more items in the second task (25.24) than in the first (20.53) (t 3X69, standard deviation 50, p 0X001). On the other hand, the more items an individual expressed in the first task, the more items were expressed in the second task (t 0X561, standard deviation 51, p 0X000). As a result, owing to the experimental procedure, the respondents expressed on average as many items with the JRS (23.75) as with the sketch map (22.02). The second reason is that the standard deviations of these averages are systematically higher for the sketch map than for the JRS. The impact of the technique It is thus necessary to continue the analysis with the order of the trial taken into account. However, it must be noted that only for the sketch map did the number of


T Ramadier, A-C Bronner

Table 2. Average and standard deviation of the number of items expressed in the cognitive representation. Group Average number of items (standard deviation) sketch map Students Trial 1 sketch map (n 18) Trial 1 JRSa (n 12) Total (n 30) Workers Trial 1 sketch map (n 11) Trial 1 JRSa (n 10) Total (n 21)

JRSa 26.67 (7.84) 26.67 (5.43) 26.67 (6.87) 16.54 (7.24) 22.90 (8.29) 19.57 (8.23)

20.50 (11.27) 30.00 (8.76) 24.30 (11.22) 11.73 (5.92) 26.50 (10.82) 18.76 (11.27)

Jeu de reconstruction spatiale, a spatial reconstruction set.

items significantly increase depending on whether the task was performed in the first trial (17.17) or the second trial (28.41) (t 3X93, standard deviation 49, p 0X000). In other words, the sketch map is less stable than the JRS. However, in the `retest' situation, the sketch map does not yield more physical items (28.41) than the JRS (24.95) in any significant way. Only in the case in which the respondents first drew the sketch did the number of items in the JRS spatial representation significantly increase (22.83), compared with the sketch map (17.17) (t 4X24, standard deviation 28, p 0X000). This increase in the number of urban items in the second trial with the JRS can be observed both with the students (6.16) (t 3X17, standard deviation 17, p 0X006) and with the unskilled personnel (4.82) (t 3X09, standard deviation 10, p 0X011). Thus, in the retest situation, the respondent is able to produce more items with the JRS than with the sketch map. This means that the JRS increases the number of items produced, to the extent that, in the `test' situation, it optimises the rate of items produced in the first trial, and, in the `retest' situation, it improves the rate of urban items produced after a sketch map has been performed. This first observation supports our hypothesis, because it seems easier to express knowledge with the JRS than with the sketch. A difference between unskilled personnel and students If we now look at the rate of production of urban items in the first trial, we observe that the difference between the students and the unskilled personnel is smaller with the JRS than with the sketch map (figure 3). Thus, in the first trial, the unskilled personnel mentioned more urban items with the JRS (22.90) than with the sketch (11.72) (t 3X58, standard deviation 19, p 0X002), whereas no significant difference was observed among the students. On the other hand, and this is more important in the context of our research, though there is no significant difference between social groups as concerns the number of urban items mentioned with the JRS, in the sketch-map test there is a significant difference between the students (20.50) and the unskilled personnel (11.73) (t 2X38, standard deviation 27, p 0X025). However, the interaction effect between the type of technique used and the social group is not significant, which globally confirms that, in the first trial, both groups mention more urban items with the JRS than with the sketch map. The order effect reveals the limits of the JRS In order to understand the advantages and drawbacks of each technique, and in particular the JRS, we must observe in greater detail the relationship between the

Knowledge of the environment and spatial cognition


30 25 Mean of elements 20 15 Students Workers 10 5 0 W JRS S W Sketch S

Figure 3. Average number of urban items at first trial. JRS signifies a spatial reconstruction set, Jeu de reconstruction spatiale.

impact of order and that of the technique itself. Indeed, although on one hand we observed an increase in the number of urban items produced when the JRS was given in the retest situation, regardless of the social group, on the other hand we have not yet determined in what way the number of items given with the JRS or the sketch map changes from one trial to the next. In other words the following analysis deals with the comparison between techniques depending on the order of trial rather than with a focus on individual differences. For this reason it is necessary to observe the `behaviour' of the techniques independently of the social group. In the case of the students, whether given as a test or as a retest, the JRS yielded the same average number of urban elements. However, the average was higher in the retest situation for the sketch map (F1Y 30 6X06, p 0X020). This means that, for this social group, the JRS is more stable than the sketch map and, when it is given in the first trial, it leads to an increase in the number of items produced with the sketch map in the second trial. Thus, the interaction effect between order and technique is significant: the JRS enables the respondent to mention more items in the first trial whereas the sketch map enables the respondent to mention more items in the second trial (F2Y 27 4X48, p 0X021) (see figure 4). In the case of the JRS, the unskilled personnel mentioned more urban items in the first trial than in the second. This relationship is a trend (F1Y 19 3X51, p 0X076). Conversely, the number of urban items in the sketch map was higher in the second trial than in the first (F1Y 19 15X46, p 0X001). Thus, the interaction effect between order
JRS Mean of elements per trial sketch 30 25 20 15 10

Trial 1

Trial 2

Trial 1

Trial 2



Figure 4. Average number of elements per trial: (a) students and (b) workers. JRS signifies a spatial reconstruction set, Jeu de reconstruction spatiale.


T Ramadier, A-C Bronner

and technique is also significant: more items are mentioned in the first trial with the JRS whereas more items are mentioned with the sketch when it is performed in the second trial (F2Y 18 7X98, p 0X003). Thus, for this social group, the JRS is as unstable as the sketch-map technique. In addition, when the JRS is given as a first test, the respondents always produce more items in the sketch-map retest. These results show that, in addition to a dependence of JRS stability on social group, these tools seem to limit the possibility of mentioning more urban items when the individual becomes familiar with the drawing task. This means that the sketch map is more productive when it is given in the second trial whereas the JRS is more productive in the first trial. Increase in the number of items produced in the second trial By analysing the second trials it is possible to determine that, with the JRS, the rate of increase in the number of urban items produced is very similar from one social group to the next (55% more than in the first trial, for those respondents who produced more items in the second trial than in the first trial), whereas, when the sketch map is performed second, the rate of increase is higher for the personnel than it is for the students, considering only those respondents who produced more items in the second trial (see figure 5). Similarly, the percentage of respondents exhibiting an increase in the number of items is identical from one social group to the next as regards the JRS. However, in this case the increase in the number of items represented in the second trial is larger among students than among workers (figure 6). In other words, the changes in the cognitive representation of space are equivalent from one group to the other with the JRS, whereas with the sketch map we have a large increase in the number of items among a small proportion of unskilled persons.
80 70 60 Percentage rate of increase 50 40 30 20 10 0 10 20 30 W S W S W S W S JRS (trial 2) Sketch (trial 2) Trial 2 trial 1 b 0 Workers Students

Trial 2 trial 1 ` 0

Figure 5. Rate of increase in produced items in the second trial. Positive rates refer to the average increases for those respondents who produced more items in the second trial, and negative rates refer to the average decreases for those respondents who produced fewer items in the second trial. JRS signifies a spatial reconstruction set, jeu de reconstruction spatiale.

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Percentage of respondents per group

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 W S W S W S W S Students Students Workers Workers Trial 2 trial 1 b0 `0

JRS (trial 2)

Sketch (trial 2)

Figure 6. Percentage of respondents for whom the number of items increased or decreased. Qualitative analyses

The scale of the cognitive map We initially defined five levels: level 1: the street and square; level 2: the neighbourhood; level 3: the `island area' (the city centre of Strasbourg forms an island with the river at the south end and the canal at the north end), level 4: the `island area' and separate elements surrounding it; level 5: the `island area' and surrounding neighbourhood(s). Two thirds of the respondents (68.62%) kept the same scale from one trial to the next. Ten persons (19.60%) shifted to a larger scale in the second trial. In this case we observed mainly a shift from level 1 to level 2 for the unskilled personnel and from level 3 to level 4 for the students. Also, six persons (11.76%) produced a representation on a smaller urban scale: in both groups, we observed a shift from level 4 to level 3. Concerning this aspect of graphic productions, no notable difference was observed between both techniques, not even when the order of trial was taken into account. On the other hand, we found the usual differences between social groups: the scale of the students' representations was larger than that of the unskilled personnel's representations. The content of the spatial representations We initially divided all the items present in the spatial representations into twelve categories (see table 3, over). However, we must underscore the following: the neighbourhood does not correspond to a specific urban scale; the railways include both streetcar tracks and interurban railway tracks; the monuments correspond to historical buildings, churches, etc; other types of buildings include a friend's house, etc; urban equipment refers to bus or streetcar stops, statues, etc, and the category ``other urban items'' includes passersby, cars, etc. It turns out that, regardless of the group, the JRS tends to express railways, green areas, and unremarkable buildings more frequently than the sketches. On the other hand, in the sketches, the unskilled personnel put in proportionally more roads, and the students more urban equipment, than in the JRS. Thus, the differences between the two techniques seem to be independent of the social group, especially as the differences between the two groups pertain to other aspects: the unskilled employees mention services more often whereas students mention squares more often.


T Ramadier, A-C Bronner

Table 3. Average proportion of types of items, according to the chosen technique and to the group. Numbers in bold are those of particular importance which are discussed in the text. Item type Percentage of total items (number of persons) workers JRS Neighbourhoods Roads Squares Railway tracks Waterways Green areas Shops Services Monuments Other buildings Urban equipment Other urban items Total

students sketch JRSa (12) (79) (53) (23) (13) (6) (70) (81) (22) (14) (14) (7) 3.38 16.88 23.38 7.25 4.63 1.38 14.13 13.25 9.25 4.75 1.75 0.00 (27) (135) (187) (58) (37) (11) (113) (106) (74) (38) (14) (0) sketch 3.16 17.97 21.26 4.80 3.57 0.27 16.19 15.78 9.74 2.06 4.80 0.41 (23) (131) (155) (35) (26) (2) (118) (115) (71) (15) (35) (3)

4.62 14.36 13.63 9.49 3.65 2.43 15.82 18.49 4.14 10.46 2.43 0.49

(19) (59) (56) (39) (15) (10) (65) (76) (17) (43) (10) (2)

3.05 20.05 13.45 5.84 3.30 1.52 17.77 20.56 5.58 3.55 3.55 1.78

100 (411)

100 (394)

100 (800)

100 (729)

Jeu de reconstruction spatiale, a spatial reconstruction set.

The technique preferred by the respondents To the question: ``did you prefer the JRS or the sketch map?'' 64.7% of the respondents (33) said they preferred the JRS, 15.7% (8) preferred the sketch map, and 19.6% (10) liked both equally. However, unexpectedly for us, 73.33% of the students preferred the JRS whereas this was true of only 52.38% of the unskilled respondents. Discussion Within the framework of an experimental design which aims to vary spatial representation techniques, the order in which the respondents took the two tests and the socioeducational level of the respondents enabled us to test the assets and drawbacks of a spatial modelling task as compared with a sketch map. These advantages and drawbacks were thus tested in a situation of comparison of social groups in order to offset the serious drawbacks of the sketch-map and paper-and-pencil tasks in this field. Our hypothesis, according to which the differences between social groups decrease with the JRS, has been verified. Indeed in the first trial the differences between the two social groups in terms of the number of urban items reproduced in the spatial representation were smaller than with the sketch map. In addition, when given in the first trial, the JRS led to a considerable increase in the number of urban items expressed, and improved the sketch performance in the second trial. In other words, part of the social differences observed is linked to the type of tool used rather than to social reality. The importance of the order effect also shows that the JRS is more stable than the drawing, even though Blades (1990) has already shown the reliability of a sketch over time. This stability has been observed at several levels, which means that it also plays a part in reducing differences between social groups. First, the performances on the JRS remained stable from one trial to the next. However, concerning this point, the stability was higher for students than for the unskilled personnel. Second, there was a high rate of increase in the number of urban items produced in the retest situation (about 55%) and with the JRS the rate was identical from one social group to the next. With the sketch test the rate was not as homogeneous from one group to the next. Third, the same was observed concerning the number of persons who expressed

Knowledge of the environment and spatial cognition


a larger number of items in the second test. Thus, if we combine the last two results, the `retest' effect with the JRS can be observed for the greater part of the sample and in identical proportions from one group to the next, whereas with the sketch the retest effect is very powerful and can be observed only for a small proportion of the sample of unskilled personnel. The limits of the JRS are mainly due to the suggestive nature of the items presented. However, this drawback is relative in the sense that, from one group to the next, the same items tend to be overrepresentedrailway tracks, green spaces, and unremarkable buildings. Naturally, the simple fact of offering black cords, green blocks, and small red houses encourages the overrepresentation of certain categories of urban items. The second limit concerns the flexibility of the proposed standardised items. Indeed, one of the reasons why the sketch is not reliable is that it offers greater freedom to express one's representation of urban space. However, it seems that the freedom of expression of the sketch is possible for unskilled persons only if they first were able to use concrete but symbolic objects to represent space. For the students the JRS seemed to limit the expression of urban items which have a great variety of forms and functions, for instance, urban equipment (statues, fountains, bus stops, etc). However, this limit is also relative, to the extent that it affects only a minority of urban elements in the spatial representation. In conclusion of these limitations, the JRS is particularly effective in cases in which only one trial is possible or as the first of a series of trials; the sketch map is more successful when performed second, but there are serious methodological biases with regard to comparison between social groups. The differences observed between the two groups concerning the extent of the spatial representation have often been observed in sociocultural group comparisons. However, asking students to express their knowledge of the city centre exacerbates these results: as observed by Bonnes et al (1990), the city centre is a favourite meeting place among this social group, and this fact reinforces differences observed between this group and persons with low qualifications in terms of knowledge of the environment. In terms of preference, even though we have only one declared response, the massive tendency to prefer the JRS corroborates observations made of the attitudes of respondents during the trials. Indeed, many respondents spontaneously said that drawing was difficult for them whereas the JRS was more amusing without seeming childish. This last point is important, and this leads us to discourage the partial or total use of commercialised game sets. The three-dimensional aspect was also an important asset for some persons. Finally, the respondents appreciated the figurative nature of the JRS items because it helped them understand and quickly memorise the assignment. They also liked the flexibility of the cord (easy to use in terms of size and shape), and that of the wood pieces and the green and blue blocks. Many persons used several items to make an element that was more figurative than what was originally proposed. Usually the respondents with fewer skills tended to increase the figurativeness of the urban items they used. This research shows on one hand that a comparison between social groups on the basis of the sketch map tends to put persons with a limited education in a position of handicap, especially if writing, drawing, and even reading are not very frequent occupations in their daily lives. This situation of handicap is increased by the social interaction implicit in the survey situation. Indeed, the surveyor is at ease with paperand-pencil-type tasks and this can reinforce the respondents' perception of being in a situation of inferiority. These social relationships, whose symbolic violence very often remains unperceived by the persons concerned (Bourdieu, 1993), can often lead to self-censorship on the part of the respondent, or to the refusal to perform the task by alleging a form of incompetence which can be accepted by the surveyor


T Ramadier, A-C Bronner

(``I can't draw''). Research has shown that two levels of cultural integration are involved in studies on spatial cognition: in addition to the social legibility of space (Ramadier and Moser, 1998), one must also take into account the cultural integration pertaining to the expression of environmental knowledge (Parameswaran, 2003). In addition to improving scientific knowledge, the JRS can be used to help promote citizen participation in urban planning. Indeed, with the JRS one can obtain information on the cognitive representation of space among very diverse population groups; thus, the resulting `maps', which are based on a common code, can be shown to other participants. In this way the different points of view expressed during debates can be more easily understood by others. The JRS thus improves our understanding of the spatial representations underlying different viewpoints and ways of using space.
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