Conditions for Selection and Conceptualization in Diagrams and Sentences

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.


This paper considers several ways in which diagrams mini-mally designate the selection and conceptualization of infor-mation compared to sentential forms of external representa-tion (ER). We group these factors as different ways that an ER designates cognitive engagement (DCE) and propose that this concept is important in distinguishing and understanding differences between different classes of ER. The article out-lines components of a conceptual framework we are currently developing for characterizing expressions of information in diagrams and other classes of ER. The framework is em-ployed to better understand the nature of DCE in diagrams and its semantic conditions. Our account of DCE is then used to shed light on three important characteristics of diagram-matic ERs: (1) the ill-defined nature of the information they express, (2) their rich potential for providing expressions and (3) their efficacy for tasks that are ill-defined in certain ways.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

Conference Paper
The article considers a perspective on token representation in diagrams and its relation to other properties typical of diagrammatic external representations (ERs). We distinguish between direct and indirect cognitive modes of token reference based on whether a referential attribute of ER tokens, represented by a cognitive system, is used as a surrogate for represented tokens. We then consider how this characterization sheds light on particular cognitive properties of representing objects and relations in diagrams and diagrammatic kinds of engagement with sentential classes of ER.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The paper reports on the phenomenon that may be called “derivative meaning”, where the basic semantic conventions for certain graphical representation systems give rise to additional informational relations between features of representations and features of the represented. We discuss several examples of graphical systems, such as the systems of scatter plots, data maps, and tabular representations, whose informational potentials heavily depend on this phenomenon. We then give an analysis of the way a new meaning relation is derived from basic semantic conventions, and specify the exact conditions for a representation system to support this phenomenon
This classic research monograph develops and illustrates the theory of linguistic structure known as Cognitive Grammar, and applies it to representative phenomena in English and other languages. Cognitive grammar views language as an integral facet of cognition and claims that grammatical structure cannot be understood or revealingly described independently of semantic considerations.
Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (1975), pp. 419-430
Research on dynamic decision making in complex systems has paid little attention to the impact of interface design on human performance. Ecological interface design (EID) is a theoretical framework for designing computer interfaces for complex human-machine systems that addresses this issue. This article provides an overview of a research program on EID conducted in the author's laboratory. A detailed example showing how the principles of EID can be applied to design an interface for a simplified but representative thermal-hydraulic process-control simulation is presented. Also, the results from laboratory research, lessons learned from an industrial prototype, and the details of technology transfer to industry are reviewed. Collectively, the findings from this research program demonstrate that dynamic decision-making performance in complex systems can be significantly improved through appropriate interface design. This conclusion has significant implications for system dynamics research.
Six characteristics of effective representational systems for conceptual learning in complex domains have been identified. Such representations should: (1) integrate levels of abstraction; (2) combine globally homogeneous with locally heterogeneous representation of concepts; (3) integrate alternative perspectives of the domain; (4) support malleable manipulation of expressions; (5) possess compact procedures; and (6) have uniform procedures. The characteristics were discovered by analysing and evaluating a novel diagrammatic representation that has been invented to support students’ comprehension of electricity—AVOW diagrams (Amps, Volts, Ohms, Watts). A task analysis is presented that demonstrates that problem solving using a conventional algebraic approach demands more effort than AVOW diagrams. In an experiment comparing two groups of learners using the alternative approaches, the group using AVOW diagrams learned more than the group using equations and were better able to solve complex transfer problems and questions involving multiple constraints. Analysis of verbal protocols and work scratchings showed that the AVOW diagram group, in contrast to the equations group, acquired a coherently organised network of concepts, learnt effective problem solving procedures, and experienced more positive learning events. The six principles of effective representations were proposed on the basis of these findings. AVOW diagrams are Law Encoding Diagrams, a general class of representations that have been shown to support learning in other scientific domains.
This paper argues that a theory of situated vision, suited for the dual purposes of object recognition and the control of action, will have to provide something more than a system that constructs a conceptual representation from visual stimuli: it will also need to provide a special kind of direct (preconceptual, unmediated) connection between elements of a visual representation and certain elements in the world. Like natural language demonstratives (such as 'this' or 'that') this direct connection allows entities to be referred to without being categorized or conceptualized. Several reasons are given for why we need such a preconceptual mechanism which individuates and keeps track of several individual objects in the world. One is that early vision must pick out and compute the relation among several individual objects while ignoring their properties. Another is that incrementally computing and updating representations of a dynamic scene requires keeping track of token individuals despite changes in their properties or locations. It is then noted that a mechanism meeting these requirements has already been proposed in order to account for a number of disparate empirical phenomena, including subitizing, search-subset selection and multiple object tracking (Pylyshyn et al., Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 48(2) (1994) 260). This mechanism, called a visual index or FINST, is briefly discussed and it is argued that viewing it as performing a demonstrative or preconceptual reference function has far-reaching implications not only for a theory of situated vision, but also for suggesting a new way to look at why the primitive individuation of visual objects, or proto-objects, is so central in computing visual representations. Indexing visual objects is also, according to this view, the primary means for grounding visual concepts and is a potentially fruitful way to look at the problem of visual integration across time and across saccades, as well as to explain how infants' numerical capacity might arise.
Applying semantic concepts to analyzing media and modalities
  • K Stenning
  • R Inder
  • I Neilson
Stenning, K., Inder, R. & Neilson, I. (1995). Applying semantic concepts to analyzing media and modalities. In Glasgow, J., Narayanan, N. H., & Chandrasekaran, B., (Eds.): Diagrammatic Reasoning: Cognitive and Computational Perspectives. AAAI Press: Menlo Park, CA.