Reasoning and Inference-making with Architectural Plans

Janice Gobert Wickham

My previous research (c.f., Gobert and Frederiksen, 1988) investigated, via think aloud task, the nature of the semantic knowledge employed in the comprehension of a set of architectural plans by sub-experts (4th year students of architecture) and experts (professional architects). Using rigorous methods propositional analysis based on a BNF grammar (Backus-Naur Form; Wirth, 1976), it was determined that there are eight specific types of semantic information required to comprehend a building from its architectural plans, and the nature of this encoding process is related to both specific prior knowledge of the building and to expertise. Important to the present study was the finding that the search strategies employed by experts resulted in representations of the building which were isomorphic to the building itself as a 3-dimensional entity. Sub-experts, on the other hand, used a "floor by floor" search strategy resulting in representations which were poorer in that they were more similar to the plans used to depict the building, rather than the building depicted.


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