Why are Some Diagrams Easier to Work With?: Effects of Diagrammatic Representation on the Cognitive Integration Process of Systems Analysis and Design

Various diagrams have been used heavily in systems analysis and design without proper verification of their usability. However, different diagrammatic representations of the same information may vary in the computational efficiency of working with these diagrams. The objective of this research was to explore the effects of diagrammatic representations on the task of integrating multiple diagrams. The domain of systems analysis and design was used to generate examples and test the theory. A cognitive model of diagram integration was proposed, and an experimental study was conducted, both to explore the effects of representa-tional features of diagrams on the cognitive process of diagram integration. Results of the experiment show that the representational features of the diagrams acted as the criteria for selecting among various methods for analyzing and designing the integrated diagram. In addition, the difference in the selected methods resulted in different task performances in terms of analysis and design errors. This article concludes with the implications of the results for the development of cognitively compelling diagrams.