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Until the 1990s map perception research was one of the main parts of cartography as a scientific discipline. In the last years of the century map perception research fell out of favor as cartographers turned their attention to the new computer technology. In the first decade of the 21th century the problems of map perception became more frequent in cartographic journals.

The article recaps the main problems, theories and research conducted in the twentieth century. The main concepts connected with map perception are discussed: use, utilization, reception and interpretation. These terms are used differently in different research orientations. The author assumes that the terms: reception, reading and perception are unambiguous and perception should be treated as a complex of active and highly interactive processes, leading to identification and understanding of the visible image. The relation of perception research with theory of cartography are presented in three stages of development of the research. In the first, intuitive stage, very important role played eminent cartographers Max Eckert and Karl Peucker, who appreciated the role of human perception in cartography. The second stage began with the research initiated by A.H. Robinson in the 1950s. In the stage perceptual research contributed to the physical aspects of cartographic signs and the psychophysical orientation emerged. Perception has been accepted as an element of cartographic communication theory, modeling theory and cartographic semiotics. The third stage of perceptual research emerged as a result of criticism of empirical research effects. Cartographers turned to methods and theories of cognitive psychology and cognitive orientation was a main paradigm of the research. Perception is perceived as one of the elements of the human cognitive system and considered in the context of higher lever cognitive processes, participating in cartographic information processing. Two methodological approaches can be set apart: theoretical and experimental. In the theoretical approach the processing succession is considered and some models of cartographic processing models were presented. The first decade of the 21st century opens a new stage of perceptual research. It can be named cognitive-digital as the research is based on computer software and is concentrated on cognitive aspects of map perception.