Cognitive fit between conceptual schemas and internal problem representations: The case of geospatio-temporal conceptual schema comprehension

Vijay Khatri, Iris Vessey, Sudha Ram, Venkat Ramesh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Geospatio-temporal conceptual models provide a mechanism to explicitly represent geospatial and temporal aspects of applications. Such models, which focus on both "what" and "when/where," need to be more expressive than conventional conceptual models (e.g., the ER model), which primarily focus on "what" is important for a given application. In this study, we view conceptual schema comprehension of geospatio-temporal data semantics in terms of matching the external problem representation (that is, the conceptual schema) to the problem-solving task (that is, syntactic and semantic comprehension tasks), an argument based on the theory of cognitive fit. Our theory suggests that an external problem representation that matches the problem solver's internal task representation will enhance performance, for example, in comprehending such schemas. To assess performance on geospatio-temporal schema comprehension tasks, we conducted a laboratory experiment using two semantically identical conceptual schemas, one of which mapped closely to the internal task representation while the other did not. As expected, we found that the geospatio-temporal conceptual schema that corresponded to the internal representation of the task enhanced the accuracy of schema comprehension; comprehension time was equivalent for both. Cognitive fit between the internal representation of the task and conceptual schemas with geospatio-temporal annotations was, therefore, manifested in accuracy of schema comprehension and not in time for problem solution. Our findings suggest that the annotated schemas facilitate understanding of data semantics represented on the schema.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-127
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Professional Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Conceptual modeling
  • Geospatial database
  • Geospatio-temporal conceptual models
  • Human associative memory (HAM)
  • Syntactic and semantic comprehension tasks
  • Temporal database
  • Theory of cognitive fit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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