Interactional Context in Graphical Communication

Patrick G T Healey, Simon Garrod, Nicolas Fay, John Lee, Jon Oberlander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A substantial body of empirical evidence indicates that interactional context has a key influence on the form and interpretation of language. This paper provides an overview of a series of experiments which indicate that interactional context also plays a key role in the interpretation of drawings and sketches. Two experimental graphical communication tasks, analogous to definite reference tasks, are described. The findings from these tasks show significant parallels between the mechanisms of co-ordination in graphical dialogue and natural language dialogue. Specifically; participants match on drawing types above chance, recurrent ‘graphical referring expressions’ reduce with repetition in an interaction, direct interaction is necessary to sustain the use of more abstract drawings, and community-specific graphical conventions can be shown to emerge in experimental ‘sub-communities’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-446
Number of pages6
JournalCognitive Science
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Event24th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society - Fairfax, United States
Duration: 7 Aug 200210 Aug 2002


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