Adopting a Social Psychological Approach to Geographic Mental Maps in Foreign Policy Decision-Making

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Research on geographic mental maps has relied heavily on the theoretical assumptions of cognitive psychology. This has led to an excessive focus on individual decision-makers mental maps, due to the fact that most cognitive models discard supra-individual, cultural and social dynamics in favour of the individuals’ cognitive performance. However, foreign policy is very rarely the result of a single individual’s decisions. Yet, collective decision-making has habitually been associated with defective or low quality policy outcomes. Recent developments in social psychology allow for a better understanding of the complex social phenomenon at work in foreign policy-making. Accordingly, in the present paper I argue that rather than focus on the individual mental maps
of the persons involved in the decision-making process, we should adopt a social psychological approach and try to appreciate the geographic representations created by the decision-making group. We should try to understand in each
particular instance how groups construct the political world, namely how they create places and spaces and the foreign policies they deem most appropriate for interacting with them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57
Number of pages79
JournalAURORA Geography Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Mental Maps
  • Decision-making
  • Foreign Policy


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