The egenhofer–cohn hypothesis or, topological relativity?

Alexander Klippel, Rui Li, Jinlong Yang, Frank Hardisty, Sen Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In this chapter, we provide an overview of research on cognitively validating qualitative calculi, focusing on the region connection calculus (RCC) and Egenhofer’s intersection models (IM). These topological theories are often claimed to be foundational to spatial cognition, a concept we term the Egenhofer– Cohn Hypothesis. (The authors are aware of the limitations of the chosen title/ term. Neither Egenhofer nor Cohn necessarily support this claim in a strong form but they kindly agreed to have their names used here. Additionally, there are other approaches to topology, Cohn is the third author on the classic RCC paper, and Egenhofer published his work with co-authors. However, we feel that these two names best summarize the two most prominent topological theories in the spatial sciences.) We have been particularly interested in extending existing approaches into the realm of spatio-temporal representation and reasoning. We provide an overview on a series of experiments that we conducted to shed light on geographic event conceptualization and topology’s role in modeling and explaining cognitive behavior. Our framework also incorporates approaches to visually analyze cognitive behavior, allowing for interactive and in-depth analyses of cognitive conceptualizations. We present tangible results that can be distilled from generalizing from several experiments. These results show that the strong version of the Egenhofer– Cohn Hypothesis is not supported by all results; we suggest amendments to topological relationship specifications that are needed to serve as a sufficient basis for bridging formal and observed human spatial cognitive processes. We term this approach topological relativity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-215
Number of pages21
JournalLecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography
Issue number199629
StatePublished - 2013
Event20th Anniversary Meeting on Cognitive and Linguistic Aspects of Geographic Space, 2010 - Las Navas del Marques, Avila, Spain
Duration: Jul 4 2010Jul 8 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences

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