Presence and Absence of Individuals in Diagrammatic Logics: An Empirical Comparison

Gem Stapleton, Andrew Blake, James Burton, Anestis Touloumis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The development of diagrammatic logics is stronglymotivated by the desire to make formal reasoning accessible tobroad audiences. One major research problem, for which surprisinglylittle progress has been made, is to understand how to choosebetween semantically equivalentdiagrams from the perspective of human cognition. The particularfocus of this paper is on choosing between diagrams that representeither the presence or absence of individuals.To understand how to best make this choice, we conducted anempirical study. We found thatrepresenting the presence of individuals supported taskperformance either significantly better than, or no worse than,representing the absence of individuals. The particularly strikingfeature of our results was that representing the absence ofindividuals in a way that makes the diagram highly cluttered isdetrimental to human cognition. As a result, diagrams with thisfeature should be avoided, but diagrams using presence(irrespective of diagram clutter) or low-cluttered absence can beused to support cognition in the context of the tasks performed inour study.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)787-815
    Number of pages29
    JournalStudia Logica
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2017

    Bibliographical note

    © The Author(s) 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


    • Individuals
    • Presence
    • Absence
    • Clutter
    • Cognition
    • Diagrammatic logics


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