In my undergraduate days I was an occasional attender at lectures on cognitive processes (see “In Two Minds” on this page from my psychology website). At some point I must have stumbled across the idea of cognitive maps.
This came to mind when I saw an advert for a product which came with a lifetime guarantee – it is always a bit ambiguous about what is being guaranteed, the product or your life? Similarly, I noticed this week that my identity badge for work has expired. This has raised important questions for me about identity and my mortality, but I think it is the badge itself that has expired and I continue to exist but without authority. Fittingly for the subject of this post, I digress…
Wouldn’t it be great to see an advert for a “Sat Nav for Life”? The ambiguity is sweet with potential. I try not to rely on sat navs when I’m driving but I struggle with finding my way around at times. My standard excuse for being “lost” when walking in a strange town is that I have not yet developed a “cognitive map” of the area – which of course does not carry too much weight when I have a real map in my hand, but probably the wrong way round and in print too small to see. I knew my occasional attendance at those lectures would come in handy one day. Just think if I had attended them all, I could be a world-renowned orienteerer by now.
Equipped with my new “sat nav for life”, I would be unburdened from the cognitive demands of having to make plans or to engage in problem-solving. Where to? Oh, I think today I would like to visit enlightenment. Yesterday’s journey to becoming a brain surgeon turned out to be a longer trip than I imagined so I abandoned it. How great it would be to set off in completely the wrong direction in life, and to be told that the route was being “recalculated” so you could get back on track! How great also to know you were going in the wrong direction, with the smug satisfaction that at any time you could follow the recalculated directions without fear of ever making an irreversible mistake!