Evaluating Young People’s Area Estimation of Countries and Continents

For decades, cartographers and cognitive scientists have speculated about the influence of map projections on mental representations of the world. The development of Web 2.0 and web mapping services at the beginning of the 21st century—such as Google Maps, OpenStreetMap, and Baidu Map—led to an enormous spread of cartographic data, which is available to every Internet user. Nevertheless, the cartographic properties of these map services, and, in particular, the selected map projection or the Web Mercator projection, are questionable. The goal of this study is to investigate if the global-scale mental map of young people has been influenced by the increasing availability of web maps and the Web Mercator projection. An application was developed that allowed participants of Belgium and the US to scale the land area of certain countries and continents compared to Europe or the conterminous United States. The results show that the participants’ estimation of the actual land area is quite accurate. Moreover, an indication of the existence of a Mercator effect could not be discovered. To conclude, the young people’s mental map of the world does not appear to be influenced by a specific map projection but by personal characteristics. These elements are varied and require further analysis.


Lieselot Lapon, Philippe De Maeyer, Nina Vanhaeren, Kristien Ooms

Autores de Tableau

Sarah Battersby