Concept maps vs. mind maps

concept mapWhat’s the difference between concept mapping and mind mapping? These two types of visual mapping look very similar, which tends to cause a lot of confusion among people who are just learning abou them. Thankfully, the Wikit website contains a very concise and easy to understand comparison of these two concepts.

Here is a summary of the differences:

Concept maps

  • Are commonly used to organize and represent tacit knowledge.
  • Usually contain general concepts at the top of the map, with more specific concepts arrayed hierarchically below.
  • Connector lines usually contains keywords or phrases that summarize the relationship between the topics they connect. Such as topic a “causes” topic B.
  • Topics may be cross-linked with each other to depict more complex relationships between topics. Topics in mind maps may only have one parent; in a concept map, a topic may have multiple connector lines, each one representing a different relationship.

Mind maps

  • Tend to be more flexible and personal than concept maps.
  • Are used to slice and dice the map’s central topic or concept in multiple ways.
  • May contain images and color, to make them more visually stimulating
  • Topics may only have a single parent

Check out this informative article for more details, as well as a wealth of information about mind mapping and other visual thinking  techniques on the Wikit website. This page contains an index of all of the articles on this extensive wiki Рvery impressive!



  1. dogg gone says

    The is an unfair comparison. It "suggests" that somehow Mind maps are better [e.g. Mind maps are more flexible]. This is complete nonsense. Mind maps are the very worst study tool in contrast to Concept maps. Mind maps come from "popular psychology, otherwise laughed at by academics as voodoo nonsense". Concept maps become from 30 years of body of research: are very grounded in research, are DISTINGUISHED from "pop psychologist and voodoo" and yield OUTSTANDING results.

    Although I will not give away my own research – I will say this: do a mind map, and then do not look at it for a few months , and you will notice it is very hard to understand. Or you can do a "idea map" with more information, but you will see it is ugly to read through it.

    In contrast, do a good concept map and you can understand it 1 year later! Also you can see, and particularly another expert [e.g. teacher] can see whether AND to what EXTENT you have understood a subject-matter. The teacher can even grade you on your concept map alone [something not possible to do precisely using mind map because it is too generalised].

  2. Alexander Deliyannis says

    I have found "topics having only a single parent" the biggest limitation in mind maps. The idea of organising concepts radiantly around a single source is very useful for brainstorming and similarly focused activities. However, in other cases, when trying for example to analyse the key factors in a market and their interactions, concept maps are far more practical.

  3. Mordrid says

    I use both, I find mind maps are fantastic when brain storming or trying to understand an idea which then gets translated into a document, presentation or training course as they are quick get all info on one page and you have to decide when to stop!!! Saying that a limitation is the single parent is a poor excuse as you can map and sub map or as I do use a map to scope a single piece of work

    I use concept maps when I have a specific issue / task I want to work throughto identify potential solutions or way forward.

    I can revisit either at any time and still understand what they are for and what they mean. I use the tool that works best for me based on what I am trying to do so both have their place and both are extreemly useful tools.

  4. Richard Morris says

    I use MindManager for mind mapping as well as Vue for concept mapping on my Mac. I would really prefer to have a single tool that does both. Does anyone know of such a product.

  5. markjl says

    Interesting. Very similar in notation to entity relation diagrams from SSADM and interestingly, while not using exactly the same notation, class diagrams in UML as there are 1 to many relationships, verbs and entities. As a Mindmapper and systems modeller, this is a useful angle. I would draw these concept diagrams in Visio unless I use activity diagrams in Enterprise Architect (Sparx systems). Regards Mark

  6. Bon says

    The limitation of “a single parent” is a limitation by definition defined by wikit, which is by no means a standard. Mind map provides a convenient way to visualize vague ideas and thoughts in a form an interconnected map. It captures the most fluidic ideas, which creativity is embodied, otherwise likely disappear temporally. Mind maps are certainly not as well formed as concept maps, because illustration of relationship among well established concepts is not a purpose of mind maps.

  7. says

    Is it really necessary to distinguish a "concept map" from a "mind map" ? Maybe "yes" in the same way its useful to distinguish a mind map from a dump.

    I agree with all the views presented here. In my book if its a map its a visual representation of info in a hierarchy that aids recall.

    The beautiful concept map presented here is really a bunch of related mindmaps – and its useful.

    Thanks for a great little discussion!

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