This book examines 'the ways in which people form images of other places and how these images influence many decisions'. Examples are given of how people's mental maps reveal their perceptions and beliefs about the world. Planners asked people in Birmingham, UK, for 'the maps that they had in their heads and which they used in moving around the centre of the city'. The response was very large because 'people seemed to like the idea of helping planners and being involved in some small way with the planning process going on in their town'. As in PRA mapping activities, the maps drawn reflected people's experiences. In another example, a black school boy in Boston drew five educational institutions in the area, 'indicative of his perception of education as an escape route from the segregated life he leads'. Our mental maps are influenced and shaped by information, such as that provided by the media and school text books. School leavers ranked the places where they preferred to live, revealing 'local domes of desirability and a shared national viewpoint' regarding images of certain towns. The book ends by looking at how to change people's mental maps : 'the maps and models of the world we carry around with us need larger and much more relevant information inputs'.
This detailed look at how people create 'mental maps' should interest PRA practitioners, especially in relation to how information (e.g. from aid agencies) can shape these maps.
Allen and Unwin