Digital sketch maps and eye tracking statistics as instruments to obtain insights into spatial cognition

Keywords: sketch map, eye tracking, cognitive cartography, spatial cognition, usability, individual differences, region of interest


This paper explores map users’ cognitive processes in learning, acquiring and remembering information presented via screen maps. In this context, we conducted a mixed-methods user experiment employing digital sketch maps and eye tracking. On the one hand, the performance of the participants was assessed based on the order with which the objects were drawn and the influence of visual variables (e.g. presence & location, size, shape, color). On the other hand, trial durations and eye tracking statistics such as average duration of fixations, and number of fixations per seconds were compared. Moreover, selected AoIs (Area of Interests) were explored to gain a deeper insight on visual behavior of map users. Depending on the normality of the data, we used either two-way ANOVA or Mann-Whitney U test to inspect the significance of the results. Based on the evaluation of the drawing order, we observed that experts and males drew roads first whereas; novices and females focused more on hydrographic object. According to the assessment of drawn elements, no significant differences emerged between neither experts and novices, nor females and males for the retrieval of spatial information presented on 2D maps with a simple design and content. The differences in trial durations between novices and experts were not statistically significant while both studying and drawing. Similarly, no significant difference occurred between female and male participants for either studying or drawing. Eye tracking metrics also supported these findings. For average duration of fixation, there was found no significant difference between experts and novices, as well as between females and males. Similarly, no significant differences were found for the mean number of fixation.

Author Biographies

Merve Keskin, Ghent University (UGent)
Merve is a PhD candidate, working on cognitive cartography and usability issues of maps, with the aim of understanding of how different map users (novices and experts) read, interpret and use visual information presented in maps, by using eye-tracking and EEG.
Kristien Ooms, Ghent University (UGent)
Kristien Ooms is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Geography since 2013. Kristien focuses on cartographic user research to evaluate the usability of (static and interactive) maps using a mixed methods approach. She is specialized in eye tracking in combination with a statistics and visual analytics. Kristien is currently the Chair of the Commission on Use, User, and Usability Issues of the International Cartographic Association.
Ahmet Ozgur Dogru, Istanbul Technical University (ITU)
Assist. Prof. Dr. A. Özgür Doğru is a research associate in Cartography division of Geomatic Engineering Department of the Istanbul Technical University (ITU) in Turkey. He did research on cartography, data modeling, database design and model generalization in the Geography Department of Ghent University, Belgium and COGIT Laboratory of National Geographic Institute of France (Institut Geographique National – IGN France) for 6 and 12 months respectively as guest PhD researcher. He completed his PhD thesis on Cartographic Approaches for Designing Car Navigation Maps by Using Multiple Representational Databases in 2009. He was involved as the researcher in three EU Framework Projects that are ENVIROGRIDS: Building Capacity for a Black Sea Catchment Observation and Assessment System supporting Sustainable Development (FP7) Digital South East Europe (FP6) and GISEE: GIS Technology and Market in South East Europe (FP5). His main scientific and technical interests are cartography, Geographic Information Systems and its applications, multiple representations, navigation systems, epidemiology and interdisciplinary studies.
Philippe De Maeyer, Ghent University (UGent)

Philippe De Maeyer is senior full professor in cartography and GIS; he is the chair of the Department of Geography. He is full member of the Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences.

He is involved in research on:

the history of cartography and map making and the use of GIS in historical (map) studies (esp. 18th till 20th Century);
the use of GIS and remote sensing for land-cover/land-use issues/changes (including climate change, esp. in Central-Asia);
the use of GIS and remote sensing in archaeology (Silk road in Xinjiang, (China), Campeche (Mexico), ...);
risk modelling (esp. the economic direct impact and the social, ecological and cultural impact) of floods and other natural hazards (Belgium, SIDS Small Island Developing States, ...);
the use of GIS for accessibility studies, e.g. accessibility to health care;
indoor routing (algorithms, landmarks), ....

How to Cite
Keskin, M., Ooms, K., Dogru, A. O., & De Maeyer, P. (2018). Digital sketch maps and eye tracking statistics as instruments to obtain insights into spatial cognition. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 11(3).