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The cognitive adequacy of Allen's interval calculus for qualitative spatial representation and reasoning


Knauff,  M
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Knauff, M. (1999). The cognitive adequacy of Allen's interval calculus for qualitative spatial representation and reasoning. Spatial Cognition and Computation, 1, 261-290.

Qualitative spatial reasoning (QSR) is often claimed to be cognitively more plausible than conventional numerical approaches to spatial reasoning, because it copes with the indeterminacy of spatial data and allows inferences based on incomplete spatial knowledge. The paper reports experimental results concerning the cognitive adequacy of an important approach used in QSR, namely the spatial interpretation of the interval calculus introduced by Allen (1983). Knauff, Rauh and Schlieder (1995) distinguished between the conceptual and inferential cognitive adequacy of Allen’s interval calculus. The former refers to the thirteen base relations as a representational system and the latter to the compositions of these relations as a tool for reasoning. The results of two memory experiments on conceptual adequacy show that people use ordinal information similar to the interval relations when representing and remembering spatial arrangements. Furthermore, symmetry transformations on the interval relations were found to be responsible for most of the errors, whereas conceptual neighborhood theory did not appear to correspond to cognitively relevant concepts. Inferential adequacy was investigated by two reasoning experiments and the results show that in inference tasks where the number of possible interval relations for the composition is more than one, subjects ignore numerous possibilities and interindividually prefer the same relations. Reorientations and transpositions operating on the relations seem to be important for reasoning performance as well, whereas conceptual neighborhood did not appear to affect the difficulty of reasoning tasks based on the interval relations.