Members of the group investigate and develop accounts of cognitive processing that underpin the use of external representations. Research typically involves controlled experiments and the use of rich forms of protocols analysis (e.g. eye-movements, verbal reports etc.) to understand the nature of user engagement. The research has often resulted in the development of applied guidelines for the design and selection of external representations.
Examples of research
Recent research on graph comprehension investigated how alternative Cartesian graphs representations of the same information significantly influence processing efficacy in graph comprehension tasks (Peter Cheng). The research recorded eye-movements to analyse differences in the scan paths employed by participants in different graph conditions. Scan paths shown by participants matched optimal scan path derived through task analysis and modelled in ACT-R architecture. The advantages of the alternative graphs were found to outweigh factors such as user unfamiliarity. The research findings were used to formulate guidelines for design and selection of visual displays.
Recent work on map reading examined differences between how expert and novices integrate and memorize information from maps and the nature of their underlying schemas (Robin Kent). In a series of experiments which involved combining rich forms of protocols analysis (e.g. eye-movements, verbal, drawing) it was found that while both experts and novices employ schemas that integrate configuration information, expert map readers were also more likely to integrate map features based on the abstract functional roles they support. The research was argued to have important implications for the design of map representations.
On-going collaborative work has been examining the interpretation errors students make when translating the meaning of logical expressions between natural language, logical notations and graphical representations (Richard Cox). The research based on a large corpus of solutions generated by students using a logic learning environment is being used to understand the nature of errors made by students and their underlying causes.
Current research on the role of external representations in probability problem solving has been examining the accessibility effects of information and knowledge in alternative graphical representations of probability situations (Rossano Barone). A central hypothesis investigated in the project is that accessibility effects on the formulation of solution procedures are related to advantages conferred by diagrams in the abduction and evaluation of explanations of candidate problem interpretations. The work has involved conducting controlled experiments using eye-movements and verbal reports and developing cognitive models to understand and evaluate accounts of accessibility effects in probability problem solving.