Minds and Machines

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 533-557

First online:

Theories of Diagrammatic Reasoning: Distinguishing Component Problems

  • Corin GurrAffiliated withThe Human Communication Research Centre, University of Edinburgh
  • , John LeeAffiliated withThe Human Communication Research Centre, University of Edinburgh
  • , Keith StenningAffiliated withThe Human Communication Research Centre, University of Edinburgh

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Theories of diagrams and diagrammatic reasoning typically seek to account for either the formal semantics of diagrams, or for the advantages which diagrammatic representations hold for the reasoner over other forms of representation. Regrettably, almost no theory exists which accounts for both of these issues together, nor how they affect one another. We do not attempt to provide such an account here. We do, however, seek to lay out larger context than is generally used for examining the processes of using diagrams in reasoning or communication. A context in which detailed studies of sub-problems, such as the formal semantics or cognitive impact of specific diagrammatic systems, may be embedded.

Accounts of the embedding of sentential logics in the computational processes of reasoners and communicators are relatively well developed from several decades of research in AI. Analogies between the sentential and the graphical cases are quite revealing about both similarities and differences. To provide a structure for the 'grand context' of diagrammatic representation and reasoning, and to clarify the relations between its component problems, we examine carefully these analogies and the decomposition they provide of subproblems for analysing diagrammatic reasoning.

Diagrammatic reasoning theory of diagrams diagrammatic representation