Testing the First Law of Cognitive Geography on Point-Display Spatializations

  • Daniel R. Montello
  • Sara Irina Fabrikant
  • Marco Ruocco
  • Richard S. Middleton
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 2825)


Spatializations are computer visualizations in which nonspatial information is depicted spatially. Spatializations of large databases commonly use distance as a metaphor to depict semantic (nonspatial) similarities among data items. By analogy to the “first law of geography”, which states that closer things tend to be more similar, we propose a “first law of cognitive geography,” which states that people believe closer things are more similar. In this paper, we present two experiments that investigate the validity of the first law of cognitive geography as applied to the interpretation of “point-display spatializations.” Point displays depict documents (or other information-bearing entities) as 2- or 3-dimensional collections of points. Our results largely support the first law of cognitive geography and enrich it by identifying different types of distance that may be metaphorically related to similarity. We also identify characteristics of point displays other than distance relationships that influence similarity judgments.


Direct Distance Similarity Judgment Information Visualization Display Type Comparison Point 
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.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel R. Montello
    • 1
  • Sara Irina Fabrikant
    • 1
  • Marco Ruocco
    • 1
  • Richard S. Middleton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of California at Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA

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