Wanted: A Concise List of Neurologically Defensible and Assessable Spatial Thinking Skills




Gersmehl, Philip J.
Gersmehl, Carol A.

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The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education


Recent neuroscientific research seems to indicate that the human brain has several distinct “regions” that are structured to do particular kinds of spatial thinking. A review of more than 900 research studies provides the foundation for a list of eight distinct modes of spatial thinking at geographic (as opposed to personal or astronomical) scales. This article summarizes the neuroscientific evidence for the analytical processes of comparing places, assessing influence on neighboring areas, classifying places into regions, interpreting spatial hierarchies, visualizing spatial transitions, identifying analogous locations (e.g., on other continents), and discerning spatial patterns and pattern associations. This concise list could serve as a neurologically defensible outline for a “taxonomy” of spatial thinking skills, which in turn could provide a more solid foundation for assessment (and thus help guide the development of better teaching materials and more effective training of teachers to use those materials).



geography, spatial, cognition, neuroscience, location, aura, buggers, regions, hierarchy, transitions, analogy, patterns, associations, movements, diffusion, spatial models, assessments


Gersmehl, P.J. & Gersmehl, C.A. (2006). Wanted: A concise list of neurologically defensible and assessable spatial thinking skills. Research in Geographic Education, 8, pp. 5-38.


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