Cognitive maps are encoded in the hippocampal formation and related regions and range from the spatial to the purely conceptual. Neural mechanisms that encode information into relational structures, up to an arbitrary level of abstraction, may explain such a broad range of representation. Research now indicates that social life can also be mapped by these mechanisms: others’ spatial locations, social memory, and even a two-dimensional social space framed by social power and affiliation. The systematic mapping of social life onto a relational social space facilitates adaptive social decision making, akin to social navigation. This emerging line of research has implications for cognitive mapping research, clinical disorders that feature hippocampal dysfunction, and the field of social cognitive neuroscience. This Perspective highlights emerging work that suggests that the hippocampal formation encodes relational maps in spatial, non-spatial, and abstract domains. Additionally, Schafer and Schiller argues that these functions extend to the social domain and may include specialized social computations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-489
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - 24 Oct 2018


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