Linking the unknown to the known has been a useful teaching strategy since time immemorial, and the association map is a particularly powerful way of tapping into this for some students.
Internal cross links between lower level keywords are less common in mind maps and concept maps than they are in association maps, with the branching tree structure tending to take precedence. With concept and mind maps, the relationship of each word to the overarching theme remains paramount. In association maps, however, the link becomes the key, and, as stated, the process of deciding which type of link joins keywords together is a valuable part of ascertaining correct understanding. If you can’t link two keywords effectively, you haven’t understood how they are related to one another!
This pairing and linking process allows a jigsaw like approach to the development of the knowledge map, and enables a student always to be working from a point of understanding. Most interestingly, when used to develop a map for a new topic methylone where one is not an expert, it is possible to identify the high level terms which will take precendence at the top of a concept map once an association map has been developed. This is because they are the ones with the most linkages. Development of an association map therefore gives a useful mechanism for allowing students to take on the expert role and develop their own concept maps, even when they are not fully confident in a subject. Drawing any of the three types of maps involves much more active learning than just using ready produced ones in my experience so this is a definite bonus. In summary, all mapping techniques provide a powerful method for organising key ideas within a topic or sub-topic. Mind mapping allows colourful creativity, concept mapping provides the confidence of professional correctness, and association mapping always lets you get started somewhere, but I have a sneaky suspicion, that the real power of visual mapping is the process your brain goes through when you develop those non-verbal links for yourself, so get a pencil and get started!