Mental Maps

One day a week I work at the Outlaw Parlor in Meeteetse and I’ve noticed I have to consult my mental map for nearly every request. Customers must think the Outlaw hires the handicapped while I stare off into space trying to locate the item in my head.

I learned about mental maps in college. The second time around, that is. The first time I didn’t learn anything except that a 1.5 GPA will net you a letter from the dean advising you to “take some time off”. Mental maps are a visualization of an area, which enable us to get from one place to another without using actual maps every time we leave the house. Some people have a real messed up sense of where things are located on a broad scale.

The professor gave us a blank map of the US and asked us to fill in where the states were located. Everyone did well for the western area of the US. Things got a little fuzzy after that. Then she gave us the same map filled in by students at an eastern college. Many people believed Wyoming was a city in Las Vegas (no, not Nevada. Nevada didn’t exist) and California took up all of the west coast and most of the west.

Mental maps are most accurate for what we do every day. If someone asks for hot tea at my regular job, I don’t even have to think about it. I know where it is located, I know what I have to do to prepare it and the time it will take. However, if someone asks for hot tea at the Outlaw, my brain has to map out where the tea is located, remember if there is hot water on the warmer, locate the cups and calculate the time it will take to assemble all these items. It only takes a couple of seconds, but I know “duh” is written all over my face for that time. I’m surprised I don’t drool.

It is really amazing how our brains work. How do mental maps work for you?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. DarcsFalcon
    Oct 08, 2009 @ 13:41:50

    I've heard of mental maps. I don't think I've ever actually applied the technique to anything practical in my own life. I've also seen mind maps for writing and note taking.

    I guess I'm just wandering around out here.


  2. darcknyt
    Oct 08, 2009 @ 15:13:53

    Most of the time, they work okay. I have to check with someone once in a while, but I do a pretty good job of staring down at something like a paper or my feet while I "duh" out foraging for the right one.


  3. Holly
    Oct 08, 2009 @ 15:26:57

    Of course you use mental maps. When you go to the grocery store or someone asks directions to the library, you visualize it in your head. It is probably so automatic, you don't even notice it or you never had the term to apply to it. Now you will stumble every time your brain visualizes a location just like I will now stumble every time I hear the word 'tragedy'. 🙂


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