Visualization Processes in Physics

In this line of research, we investigate how visualization may facilitate learning scientific concepts and solving physics problems. In particular, we investigate how individual differences in visualization ability affect learning sciences and processing abstract scientific representations. Our research (Kozhevnikov, Hegarty, & Mayer, 2002; Kozhevnikov, & Thornton, 2006) has shown that spatial visualization ability predicts success at solving mechanics problems, and relates to specialization in science (Kozhevnikov, Blazhenkova, & Becker, 2010). Furthermore, we showed that high- and low-spatial visualizers generate qualitatively different mental images and use different strategies when solving mechanics problems. The analysis of eye-fixation data (Kozhevnikov, Motes, & Hegarty, 2007), revealed that low-spatial ability participants spent a greater amount of time studying the overall shape of graphs compared to studying the graph axes, whereas high-spatial ability participants spent more time studying the axes than the overall shape of the graph.

In addition, our preliminary results (Blazhenkova & Kozhevnikov, submitted) from qualitative interviews with members of different professions about their visualization processes while solving professional tasks revealed that scientists report visualization experiences unique from those of other professionals, which can be characterized as schematic, sequential, easily transformed and controlled.