Reasoning with Multiple Diagrams: Focusing on the Cognitive Integration Process

In order to understand diagrammatic reasoning where multiple diagrams are involved, this study proposes a theoretical framework that focuses on the cognitive process of perceptual and conceptual integration. The perceptual integration process involves establishing interdependencies between the relevant data that have been dispersed across multiple diagrams, while the conceptual integration process involves generating and refining hypotheses by combining the individual data inferred from the diagrams. An experiment within the domain of business systems engineering was conducted where verbal protocols were collected. The results of the experimental study reveal that understanding a system represented by multiple diagrams involves a tedious process of visually searching for related information and of conceptually developing hypotheses about the target system. The results also showed that these perceptual and conceptual processes could be facilitated by providing visual cues that indicate where elements in one diagram are related to elements in other diagrams, and contextual information that indicates how the individual datum in one diagram is related to the overall hypothesis about the entire system.