Visualizing thought: Mapping category and continuum


Abstract thought has roots in the spatial world. Abstractions are expressed in the ways things are arranged in the world as well as the ways people talk and gesture. Mappings to the page should be better when they are congruent, that is, when the abstract concept matches the spatial one. Congruent mappings can be revealed in people’s performance and preferences. Congruence is supported here for visual representations of continuum and category. Congruently mapping a continuous concept, frequency, to a continuous visual variable and mapping a categorical concept, class inclusion, to a categorical visual variable were preferred and lead to better performance than the reverse mappings.

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