When thinking of a map of the world, most of us typically think of the classic Mercator projection map.
This map projection was developed by Gerardus Mercator in 1569 and the direction north points up and south points down. In addition, because it is a cylindrical map projection it inflates the size of objects further away from the equator. Therefore, this inflation doesn’t affect the landmass of central Africa very much, but has a much larger effect on areas of the world further north and south.
Check out this image which shows the actual size of countries relative to its Mercator map projection size:
The map certainly demonstrates that the map we use most often makes the US and Europe bigger relative to its actual size. Then let’s also consider the question – does the direction North really correspond to up and the direction South correspond to down? Check out this map which flips this convention:
Both of these maps are a bit disorienting, but it’s interesting to consider our perceptions of our world. In addition, some of these perceptions can lead to unconscious biases. This includes associating north with “better” or tying landmass size to power. By recognizing that these biases exist, we can take some steps to counteract them. We can also use this map exploration as practice breaking out of long-held perceptions and a chance to understand one way maps can influence us.