Spatially structured cognitve models of semantic information
: the implications for computerised databases

  • Julie Collins

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Existing theories of semantic cognition propose models of cognitive processing occurring in a conceptual space, where ‘meaning’ is derived from the spatial relationships between concepts’ mapped locations within the space. Information visualisation is a growing area of research within the field of information retrieval, and methods for presenting database contents visually in the form of spatial data management systems (SDMSs) are being developed. This thesis combined these two areas of research to investigate the benefits associated with employing spatial-semantic mapping (documents represented as objects in two- and three-dimensional virtual environments are proximally mapped dependent on the semantic similarity of their content) as a tool for improving retrieval performance and navigational efficiency when browsing for information within such systems. Positive effects associated with the quality of document mapping were observed; improved retrieval performance and browsing behaviour were witnessed when mapping was optimal. It was also shown using a third dimension for virtual environment (VE) presentation provides sufficient additional information regarding the semantic structure of the environment that performance is increased in comparison to using two-dimensions for mapping. A model that describes the relationship between retrieval performance and browsing behaviour was proposed on the basis of findings. Individual differences were not found to have any observable influence on retrieval performance or browsing behaviour when mapping quality was good. The findings from this work have implications for both cognitive modelling of semantic information, and for designing and testing information visualisation systems. These implications are discussed in the conclusions of this work.
Date of AwardJan 2006
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPaul Furlong (Supervisor) & Stephen J. Westerman (Supervisor)


  • Spatially structured cognitve models
  • semantic information
  • computerised databases

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