Distance Estimation: Exploring Gestalt Principles When Engaging in Tree Thinking
Gestalt principles of grouping have been widely studied in diagrammatic reasoning because diagrams that follow these principles are easier to understand than those that are not (Lemon et al 2007, Stieff 2007, Novick and Catley 2007). In the present study, I investigate how Gestalt principles of grouping can be applied to the distances between the branches of a cladogram. Participants were shown an image of a cladogram with two arrows pointing to two branches and were asked to estimate the distance between them using the arrow keys. I hypothesized that same group trials, or distances that followed the Gestalt grouping principles would be estimated as shorter than those that were not aligned with the Gestalt grouping principles or different group trials. The results were broken out by size and trial type in order to provide more clarity to the data, but were ultimately inconclusive due to the many significant interactions between the variables studied. Future improvements to this study include rewriting the program, increasing the amount of time participants have to encode the structure of the cladogram, and decreasing the size differences between the cladograms.