Theory Maps

Theory Mapping

Theory mapping is a technique for visually outlining scientific theory. It allows researchers to concretely display interrelations between concepts, which provides for rapid communication and easy evaluation of ideas.  Theory mapping was developed by social psychologist Kurt Gray to emphasize that good science requires both reliable methods and rigorous theory. The technique is described in the following forthcoming article at Perspectives on Psychological Science.  Click the title to download it; scroll down to learn more.

How to Map Theory: Reliable Methods Are Fruitless Without Rigorous Theory



Elements of Mapping

Theory maps display conceptual relations through a number of elements, shown in the legend above.  These include 1) positive and negative relationships between concepts, 2) concepts that moderate other concepts, 3) concepts that make up the fundamental elements of other concepts, and 4) varieties or examples of concepts.   For an intuitive illustration of these elements, see the theory map for cars.  For a more technical demonstration, see the theory map for moral judgment. It is very helpful to have the Perspectives paper handy as you go through these maps.

A Theory Map for Cars

A Theory map for Moral JUdgment

A Theory Map for Evolution



maps From The Field

Theory mapping is a collaborative enterprise.  Below are maps drawn by scholars in the field to illuminate various topics (listed alphabetically by topic).  Click on the name to see the map in PDF.  Scroll down for information about making your own map.


Making Your own Map

Making a map is easy. With the Perspectives paper as a guide, use these Powerpoint files to map your own area of theory.  To submit your map for publication on this site, submit an inquiry using the form below.


Powerpoint Templates for Theory Mapping




For questions about theory mapping, please use this form (or email Kurt at  If you are thinking of submitting a theory map, please describe the area you plan to map, briefly outlining 1) the set of publications you would explore and 2) how you think these papers fit together.