Lines, Blobs, Crosses and Arrows: Diagrammatic Communication with Schematic Figures

  • Barbara Tversky
  • Jeff Zacks
  • Paul Lee
  • Julie Heiser
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 1889)


In producing diagrams for a variety of contexts, people use a small set of schematic figures to convey certain context specific concepts, where the forms themselves suggest meanings. These same schematic figures are interpreted appropriately in context. Three examples will support these conclusions: lines, crosses, and blobs in sketch maps; bars and lines in graphs; and arrows in diagrams of complex systems.


Schematic Figure Graphic Form Route Direction Spatial Schema Route Description 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Clark, H.H. (1973). Space, time, semantics, and the child. In T. E. Moore (Ed.), Cognitive development and the acquisition of language. Pp. 27–63. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Denis, M. (1997). The description of routes: A cognitive approach to the production of spatial discourse. Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive, 16, 409–458.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Dreyfuss, H. (1984). Symbol sourcebook: An authoritative guide to international graphic symbols. N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gombrich, E. (1990). Pictorial instructions. In H. Barlow, C. Blakemore, and M. Weston-Smith (Editors), Images and understanding.. Pp. 26–45. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Horn, R.E. (1998). Visual language. Bainbridge Island, WA: MacroVu, Inc.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Michotte, A.E. (1963). The perception of causality. N.Y.: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Parkes, M.B. (1993). Pause and effect. Punctuation in the west. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Tversky, B. (In press). Spatial schemas in depictions. In M. Gattis (Editor), Spatial schemas in abstract thought. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Tversky, B., Kugelmass, S. and Winter, A. (1991) Cross-cultural and developmental trends in graphic productions. Cognitive Psychology, 23, 515–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tversky, B. and Lee, P.U. (1998). How space structures language. In C. Freksa, C. Habel, and K. F. Wender (Editors, Spatial cognition: An interdisciplinary approach to representation and processing of spatial knowledge. Pp. 157–175. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Tversky, B. and Lee, P.U. (1999). Pictorial and verbal tools for conveying routes. In Freksa, C, and Mark, D. M. (Editors). Spatial information theory: Cognitive and computational foundations of geographic information science. Pp. 51–64. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Zacks, J., Levy, E., Tversky, B., and Schiano, D. (In press). Graphs in use. In Anderson, M., Meyer, B. & Olivier, P. (Editors), Diagrammatic reasoning and representation. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Zacks, J. and Tversky, B. (1999). Bars and lines: A study of graphic communica tion. Memory and Cognition, 27, 1073–1079.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Tversky
    • 1
  • Jeff Zacks
    • 2
  • Paul Lee
    • 1
  • Julie Heiser
    • 1
  1. 1.Stanford UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Washington University at St. LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations