External cognition: how do graphical representations work?

Scaife, Mike and Rogers, Yvonne (1996) External cognition: how do graphical representations work? International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 45 (2). pp. 185-213. ISSN 1071-5819

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Advances in graphical technology have now made it possible for us to interact with information in innovative ways, most notably by exploring multimedia environments and by manipulating three-dimensional virtual worlds. Many benefits have been claimed for this new kind of interactivity, a general assumption being that learning and cognitive processing are facilitated. We point out, however, that little is known about the cognitive value ofanygraphical representations, be they good old-fashioned (e.g. diagrams) or more advanced (e.g. animations, multimedia, virtual reality). In our paper, we critique the disparate literature on graphical representations, focusing on four representative studies. Our analysis reveals a fragmented and poorly understood account of how graphical representations work, exposing a number of assumptions and fallacies. As an alternative we propose a new agenda for graphical representation research. This builds on the nascent theoretical approach within cognitive science that analyses the role played by external representations in relation to internal mental ones. We outline some of the central properties of this relationship that are necessary for the processing of graphical representations. Finally, we consider how this analysis can inform the selection and design of both traditional and advanced forms of graphical technology.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 15:52
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2012 07:55
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/14821
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