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Wayfinding And Escape Behavior; Behavioral And Organizational Dimensions Of Underground Mine Fires
  • Published Date:
    1/1/2000
Filetype[PDF-95.15 KB]


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  • Description:
    The notion of wayfinding, as conceptualized by planners, geographers, and psychologists, denotes the ability of an individual to move from one point to another through physical space. In order to achieve this movement, a person relies on a cognitive map of spatial representations [Passini 1984]. Which features of this cognitive mapping will be stressed depend, in part, on the researcher's perspective. A planner, for instance, would tend to emphasize the effect of physical structures on mobility. A psychologist, on the other hand, might focus on individual differences in how human minds encompass and represent physical space [Evans et al. 1984]. There is yet another dimension to wayfinding that needs consideration, and it rests upon the idea that reality, as experienced by human beings, is mediated: "[People] have preselected and preinterpreted this world by a series of commonsense constructs ... which help them find their bearings in their natural and socio-cultural environment and to come to terms with it" [Schutz 1967]. These "common sense constructs" are arrived at socially and constitute the agreed-upon schemas that guide people's everyday activities. According to this principle, cognition is governed by some nonlogical factors that reflect not only individual procedures but collective ones as well. These group strategies, which are shaped by shared rules and values, influence "the information gathered, the ways it is processed, the inferences that are drawn, the options that are being considered, and those that are finally chosen" [Etzioni 1992]. From this perspective, cognitive maps, rather than being individual-centered templates of environmental images [Rovine and Weisman 1989] or representations of spatial relationships [Evans 1980], are partially group-centered schematic processes. As such, they are subject to reinterpretation, revision, and outside intervention [Kaplan and Kaplan 1982]. As intermediaries between the environment and behavior, cognitive maps serve as bases for decision-making. Traditionally, it has been assumed that good maps facilitate correct decisions, which in turn leads to optimal performance during wayfinding [Hunt 1984]. Given the argument that there is a social (non¬cognitive) facet to cognitive mapping, however, this image of a cognitive map as some sort of static reference construct that motivates individual action is too narrow and mechanistic. If cognition involves less a knowledge of the environ¬ment than it does the process of "giving it meaning through imposing an order on it" [Rapoport 1976], then wayfinding behavior is not j ust a function of setting and individual differences, but is also a function of one's "normative-affective" structure [Etzioni 1992]. Rapoport [1976] used such an assumption as the base for a set of hypotheses about the connection between "external demands" and "organismic factors." One significant assertion deriving from Rapoport's ideas is that environmental

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