Cognitive-Affective Maps

A Cognitive-Affective Map (also called a CAM or value map) is a diagram that shows concepts and beliefs along with the emotional values attached to them. It also shows the relationships between concepts that support each other or conflict with each other. We suggest the following method:

  1. Identify the main concepts, beliefs, goals, and emotions of the person being modeled.
  2. Identify these elements as emotionally positive or negative, and accordingly represent them by ovals or hexagons.
  3. Identify relations between elements that are either complementary (solid lines) or conflicting (dashed lines).  
  4. Show the resulting map to other people to see if it captures their understandings of the person and situation. 

Here is a diagram that shows the mapping conventions used:

  • Ovals represent emotionally positive (pleasurable) elements.
  • Hexagons represent emotionally negative (painful) elements.
  • Rectangles represent elements that are neutral or carry both positive and negative aspects.
  • The thickness of the lines in the shape represents the relative strength of the positive or negative value associated with it.
  • Solid lines represent the relations between elements that are mutually supportive.
  • Dashed lines represent the relations between elements that are incompatible with each other. 
  • The thickness of the lines in the connection represents the strength of the positive or negative relation.

CAMs can be produced using any drawing program such as OmniGraffle for Mac, but Valence is a Web-based software tool that will make drawing CAMs easier once the bugs are fixed.

Publications Using Cognitive-Affective Maps:

Findlay, S. D., & Thagard, P. (2014). Emotional change in international negotiation:  Analyzing the Camp David accords using cognitive-affective maps. Group Decision and Negotiation, 23, 1281-1300. 

Homer-Dixon, T. (2020). Commanding hope: The power we have to renew a world in peril. Toronto: Knopf Canada.

Homer-Dixon, T., Maynard, J. L., Mildenberger, M., Milkoreit, M., Mock, S. J., Quilley, S., T. Schröder, and P. Thagard (2013). A complex systems approach to the study of ideology:  Cognitive-affective structures and the dynamics of belief systems. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 1, 337-364.

Homer-Dixon, T., Milkoreit, M., Mock, S. J., Schröder, T., & Thagard, P. (2014). The conceptual structure of social disputes: Cognitive-affective maps as a tool for conflict analysis and resolution. SAGE Open, 4.

Luthardt, J., Schröder, T., Hildebrandt, F., & Bormann, I. (2020). “And Then We’ll Just Check If It Suits Us” – Cognitive-Affective Maps of Social Innovation in Early Childhood Education. Frontiers in Education, 5(33).

Milkoreit, M. (2017). Mindmade politics:  The cognitive roots of international climate governance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Thagard, P. (2010). EMPATHICA:  A computer support system with visual representations for cognitive-affective mapping. In K. McGregor (Ed.), Proceedings of the workshop on visual reasoning and representation (pp. 79-81). Menlo Park, CA: AAAI Press. 

Thagard, P. (2011). The brain is wider than the sky:  Analogy, emotion, and allegoryMetaphor and Symbol, 26: 131-142.

Thagard, P. (2011). Critical thinking and informal logic: Neuropsychological perspectives. Informal Logic, 31, 152-170.

Thagard, P. (2012). Mapping minds across cultures. In R. Sun (Ed.), Grounding social sciences in cognitive sciences (35-62) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 

Thagard, P. (2012). Values in science: Cognitive-affective maps. Ch. 17 of  The cognitive science of science:  Explanation, discovery, and conceptual change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Thagard, P. (2015). The cognitive-affective structure of political ideologies. In B. Martinovski (Ed.), Emotion in group decision and negotiation. Berlin: Springer.

Thagard, P. (2015). Value maps in applied ethics. Teaching Ethics.

Thagard, P. (2018). Social equality: Cognitive modeling based on emotional coherence explains attitude change. Policy Insights from Behavioral and Brain Sciences., 5(2), 247-256. 

Thagard, P. (2019). Mind-society:  From brains to social sciences and professions New York: Oxford University Press.

Thagard, P. (2019). Natural philosophy: From social brains to knowledge, reality, morality, and beauty. New York: Oxford University Press.

Thagard, P., & Larocque, L. (2020). Mapping emotional change in psychotherapy. Unpublished. 

Wolfe, S. E. (2012). Water Cognition and Cognitive Affective Mapping: Identifying Priority Clusters Within a Canadian Water Efficiency Community. Water Resources Management, 26(10), 2991-3004.

Blog Posts

Increasing Empathy

Mapping Emotional Change in Psychotherapy

The Moral Psychology of the Green New Deal

The Emotional Coherence of Donald Trump

Mapping Values in Science and Society

This page updated October 20, 2020.

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