Facets of Understanding

The premise of the work discussed in this chapter is that understanding graphic representations involves a number of facets, summarized in Table 12.1. The first, referential meaning, is the most obvious: recognizing the denotative meaning of the representation. For example, when a viewer who is asked to interpret a painting of a cat answers "It's a cat," the viewer has demonstrated understanding of referential meaning. However, as Figure 12.1 reminds us, images like these are not, in fact, their referents. The painting of the cat is a painting, not a cat, just as the image in Figure 12.1 is a photograph, not a pipe. Being aware of a representation's own existence as a representation constitutes the second facet of understanding, representational awareness.

But even having interpreted the referential meaning of a representation and having recognized that the representation is a thing in itself, it remains challenging to appreciate these two roles simultaneously. Thus, a third facet of understanding, representational duality, is reconciling that something can have an existence in its own right and simultaneously carry meaning about something else (DeLoache, 1987; Potter, 1979). What is challenging is not only recognizing duality at the general level of the representation, but also at the level of individual parts of the representation (which have been called, respectively, "holistic" and "componential" levels, see Liben & Downs, 1991). For this third facet, the user must understand that some qualities of the representation are informative about the

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