Thinking With External Representations

AI and Society 25 (4):441-454 (2010)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Why do people create extra representations to help them make sense of situations, diagrams, illustrations, instructions and problems? The obvious explanation— external representations save internal memory and com- putation—is only part of the story. I discuss seven ways external representations enhance cognitive power: they change the cost structure of the inferential landscape; they provide a structure that can serve as a shareable object of thought; they create persistent referents; they facilitate re- representation; they are often a more natural representation of structure than mental representations; they facilitate the computation of more explicit encoding of information; they enable the construction of arbitrarily complex structure; and they lower the cost of controlling thought—they help coordinate thought. Jointly, these functions allow people to think more powerfully with external representations than without. They allow us to think the previously unthinkable.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
First archival date: 2013-02-20
Latest version: 1 (2013-03-03)
View upload history
References found in this work BETA
Word and Object.Quine, Willard Van Orman; Churchland, Patricia Smith & Føllesdal, Dagfinn
Philosophical Investigations.Wittgenstein, Ludwig

View all 26 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Rotating With Rotated Text: A Natural Behavior Approach to Investigating Cognitive Offloading.Risko, Evan F.; Medimorec, Srdan; Chisholm, Joseph & Kingstone, Alan

View all 27 citations / Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
670 ( #3,729 of 42,195 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
83 ( #6,357 of 42,195 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.