Grids in topographic maps reduce distortions in the recall of learned object locations
To date, it has been shown that cognitive map representations based on cartographic visualisations are systematically distorted. The grid is a traditional element of map graphics that has rarely been considered in research on perception-based spatial distortions. Grids do not only support the map reader in finding coordinates or locations of objects, they also provide a systematic structure for clustering visual map information (‘‘spatial chunks’’). The aim of this study was to examine whether different cartographic kinds of grids reduce spatial distortions and improve recall memory for object locations. Recall performance was measured as both the percentage of correctly recalled objects (hit rate) and the mean distance errors of correctly recalled objects (spatial accuracy). Different kinds of grids (continuous lines, dashed lines, crosses) were applied to topographic maps. These maps were also varied in their type of characteristic areas (LANDSCAPE) and different information layer compositions (DENSITY) to examine the effects of map complexity. The study involving 144 participants shows that all experimental cartographic factors (GRID, LANDSCAPE, DENSITY) improve recall performance and spatial accuracy of learned object locations. Overlaying a topographic map with a grid significantly reduces the mean distance errors of correctly recalled map objects. The paper includes a discussion of a square grid’s usefulness concerning object location memory, independent of whether the grid is clearly visible (continuous or dashed lines) or only indicated by crosses.