Spatial alignment supports comparison of life science visuals for 7th graders

AbstractVisual comparisons are ubiquitous in STEM education. We suggest that visual comparisons are carried out by a structural alignment process that draws correspondences between analogs based on relational structure (Sagi, Gentner, & Lovett, 2012). The spatial arrangement of images can influence visual comparisons by increasing or decreasing competition from incorrect correspondences (Matlen, Gentner, & Franconeri, 2020). The present study tested whether this could be leveraged to help children compare complex STEM-related images. Seventh graders were shown drawings of skeletons containing an anomalous bone, either solo or paired with a correct standard. Children were more accurate at finding the anomaly when given a correct standard to compare to. On especially difficult trials in which skeletons were shown in non-canonical orientations (e.g., a cow oriented vertically), performance was enhanced when the spatial placement of the two skeletons was “direct,” minimizing competing correspondences. Thus, direct placement may help students compare complex unfamiliar images.

Return to previous page