B. Kuipers, D. Tecuci, and B. Stankiewicz. 2003.
The skeleton in the cognitive map: a computational and empirical exploration.
Environment and Behavior 35(1): 80--106, 2003.


Experts seem to find routes in a complex environment by finding a connection from the starting place to a subset of major paths --- the ``skeleton'' --- then moving within the skeleton to the neighborhood of the destination, making a final connection to the destination. We present a computational hypothesis to account for the skeleton as an emergent phenomenon, arising from the interaction of three factors. (1) The topological map is represented as a bipartite graph of places and paths, where a path is an extended one-dimensional description of an ordered set of places. (2) Travel through the environment allows the traveler to incrementally accumulate topological relationships, including the relation of a place to a path serving as a dividing boundary separating two regions. (3) A bounding path is often a natural subgoal during way-finding search, meaning that paths rich in boundary relations are likely to appear in routes, which means they are likely to acquire more boundary relations. This positive-feedback loop leads to an oligarchy of paths rich in boundary relations: the skeleton. We present preliminary computational and empirical methods for testing this hypothesis, and provide initial results.


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