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Mem Cognit. 1992 Jan;20(1):12-20.

Structure and strategy in encoding simplified graphs.

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NRC/NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California 94035.


Tversky and Schiano (1989) found a systematic bias toward the 45 degrees line in memory for the slopes of identical lines when embedded in graphs, but not in maps, suggesting the use of a cognitive reference frame specifically for encoding meaningful graphs. The present experiments explore this issue further using the linear configurations alone as stimuli. Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrate that perception and immediate memory for the slope of a test line within orthogonal "axes" are predictable from purely structural considerations. In Experiments 3 and 4, subjects were instructed to use a diagonal-reference strategy in viewing the stimuli, which were described as "graphs" only in Experiment 3. Results for both studies showed the diagonal bias previously found only for graphs. This pattern provides converging evidence for the diagonal as a cognitive reference frame in encoding linear graphs, and demonstrates that even in highly simplified displays, strategic factors can produce encoding biases not predictable solely from stimulus structure alone.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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