a term introduced in the 30s by pioneer learning researcher, Edward Tolman, to describe what rats must have in their minds to successfully navigate mazes when routes are blocked or explored from different points. Although learning is from traversing routes, mental representations appear to integrate route experience into survey or overview knowledge. The term has been extended to humans to mean a schematic mental representation of the geographic world, usually the network of paths and nodes that enable navigation. The nature, coherence, flexibility, perspective, and accuracy of these representations are continuing topics of research (source: Barbara Twersky)
Cognitive maps, mental maps, mind maps, cognitive models, or mental models are a type of mental processing, or cognition, composed of a series of psychological transformations by which an individual can acquire, code, store, recall, and decode information about the relative locations and attributes of phenomena in their everyday or metaphorical spatial environment. Tolman (1948) is generally credited with the introduction of the term 'cognitive map'. Here, 'cognition' can be used to refer to the mental models, or belief systems, that people use to perceive, contextualize, simplify, and make sense of otherwise complex problems.