MoL-2000-06: Studies on the Uses and Usefulness of Diagrams

MoL-2000-06: Berger, Shai (2000) Studies on the Uses and Usefulness of Diagrams. [Report]

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Nr: MoL-2000-06 Title: Studies on the Uses and Usefulness of Diagrams} Author: Shai Berger} Cognitive Science as we know it today was built around linguistic behavior. It was the research on language which brought down Behaviorism in Cognitive Psychology and connected Psychology with Linguistics and Computer Science. But as the field evolved, increasing attention was paid to other forms of communication. In the last two decades, we have seen a growing interest in graphics as subject of research of different paradigms. Graphics have been classified by designers, their cognitive effects were studied by psychologists, linguistic analysis has been applied to them, and logicians and computer scientists have been studying their structural and computational properties, all in an effort to further our understanding of their usefulness in presenting information to humans. There are two main motivations behind this research. The more practical one is the idea that the principles underlying the usefulness of graphics in communication, when well understood, can be used to enhance the quality of presentations. The more theoretical drive stems from the intuition that information presented graphically is often very easy to consume --- much more so than the same information presented verbally. Thus, understanding the principles of graphical communication may give us important hints to the workings of our cognitive system. In a related, simultaneous development, the availability of graphical tools, following the recent advances in computer technology, gave rise to many uses of graphics as research and presentation aids, in Cognitive Science and science in general. This may bring forth a positive feedback loop: More use of graphics means more substance for research, whose insights may produce better, more focused presentation techniques, which can then be used for yet better research, and so on. My primary motivation for this research is the theoretical one --- I want to learn more about how people think. I believe that graphic representations of data help people solve problems, and I want to study how. This interest leads me towards the body of research in diagrammatic reasoning. Within this subfield, I focussed on two, seemingly remote, areas. As a computer scientist by training, I look into the computational complexity of a typical problem encountered with diagrams in Chapter~\ref{ch:complexity}. The problem, which we all solve on an almost daily basis, is that of finding, extending, and verifying the correctness of diagram legends, which are mappings of diagram features to their meanings --- real-world entities and properties. I first formalize this as a general computation problem. The general problem is NP-hard, but I attempt to show that for some diagrams it is tractable. The feasibility of solving this problem is an important factor in the ease of use of any representation, so showing it to stem from properties of the graphic medium goes some way towards explaining the usefulness of these diagrams. As a curious person with an interest in Cognitive Science, I turn my gaze on a problem of psychological research in Chapter~\ref{ch:egg}. The studies I look into are concerned with the effects of using diagrams in education, for teaching logic. I expose what I believe to be a methodological fault which made the researchers jump to some not-entirely-warranted conclusions. In an attempt to help remedy the problem, I suggest a new diagrammatic teaching system, and describe its principles and prototype. To place this research in its context, I review some previous related work in the next chapter. I also use this review as an excuse to tackle some philosophical issues.

Item Type: Report
Report Nr: MoL-2000-06
Series Name: Master of Logic Thesis (MoL) Series
Year: 2000
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2016 14:38
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2016 14:38
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/713

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