December 6, 2012Vol. 43, Issue 3

Making It Real: International Students Apply Cognitive Visualization to Corporate Challenges

ICV students from left: Marcella Wolff, Sandra Becker, David Sarmento, Laura Evans, Isabella Glogger, and Martin Galilee.

ICV students from left: Marcella Wolff, Sandra Becker, David Sarmento, Laura Evans, Isabella Glogger, and Martin Galilee.

A year ago, December 2011, Inside Chico State published a story about the International Cognitive Visualization (ICV) master’s program and the experience of three CSU, Chico students who were among the eight students in University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany experiencing the first semester of a three-country program. Neil Schwartz, Psychology, is the U.S. coordinator of the program.

ICV is “situated at the nexus of cognitive science, instructional design, applied computer graphics, communication studies, education, and business,” according to the program website. “This program explores the relationship between individuals’ emotional and mental responses to media. Most simply, how images affect the mind,” said David Sarmento, one of the CSU, Chico students (ICS, Dec. 11, 2011). “We are also looking at the interaction between text and images, and the influence that images can have with accompanying text.”

Since the fall of 2011, which they spent at the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany, the students spent a semester in France and are now graduate students at CSU, Chico. In each of the countries, part of their program is an intensive language course in the dominant language of the country.

The cohort of eight students—Laura Evans, Simone Simpson, and David Sarmento, U.S.; Marcella Wolff, Brazil; Martin Galilee, France; Nataliya Tarbeeva, Russia; and Sandra Becker and Isabella Glogger, Germany—is now more tightly bonded than ever. The program takes up most of their time in Chico, so their cultural experience has been somewhat limited to their classes, their work with international corporations, and the writing of their theses. The eight have internships with international companies and law firms—three are commercial, five are in litigation law cases, and two are for other projects with law firms.

The students will graduate in 2013 with a dual master’s degree and be known as “cognitive visualization specialists.” The multilingualism they have developed prepares them, in addition to their specialty, to work in an international environment.

The projects the students are developing are inventive and require forging ground in a new field. In addition to the newness of the field, the eight students are working at a level of responsibility, innovation, and sophistication that would be unique in almost any master’s level program.

The students responded to Schwartz’s request to provide a snapshot of the visualization work they are doing with their industry partners. Here are descriptions of four of the projects from Sandra Becker, Martin Galilee, David Sarmento, and Marcella Wolf. 

Sandra Becker

I am working for a company that sells motorcycle protection gear on the Internet.  My project is aimed at increasing the conversion rate of purchases in online sales through their websites.

We believe that texts and graphics, which are presented with the product, have a major influence on the purchasing behavior of the website visitors. Furthermore, it has been acknowledged in marketing findings and psychological research alike that purchasing decisions are not primarily driven by informed choices of customers only.  Both research domains increasingly acknowledge the considerations and importance of emotional reactions to products and their displays and stress a demand in research on understanding how emotions work and if such an understanding can predict behavior. Therefore, we would like to study the impact of advertising via the manipulation of text and graphics on eliciting emotions of consumers with regard to the consequences of their purchasing behavior.

There is good evidence that emotional activation serves as a major factor in decision-making processes.  Therefore, we have defined a target audience for the website (with the help of data provided by the company) and have identified the socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical factors associated with the activity of motorcycling among men and women 50-74 years of age. Through reading the marketing literature, it has become apparent that the product needs to be put into a referential relationship with this potential consumer group.  The product-group interface is important to understand to derive general assumptions about that relationship. This is particularly important for constructing contents of interest for that target group since the final advertising will be based on it.

In marketing, it is especially important to acknowledge the needs and interests of the consumer and to pay particular attention to their demands. According to this human-centered approach, we decided to form a focus group comprised of presumed website visitors.  Members of the focus group will be given the opportunity to discuss the culture of motorcycling and will be encouraged to talk about their identity as riders. We expect that the qualitative data collected will help us design the materials for the future study that will reflect on the respective orientation of this particular cohort. The aim for conducting the focus group is therefore directly linked to our overall aim of enhancing the ability to predict consumer behavior.

Martin Galilee

I am designing a website in order to present a collection of books for sale by an industry partner. The company has been selling books for readers with reading disabilities for decades. At this point in time, the books are accessed by readers soley through their customers, which include special education and remedial reading teachers.
. However, the company would like to introduce the ability for readers to directly access books through a specifically designed reader-oriented website.

The website will be designed to resemble a library where the potential readers can find the books that they want to read. The display will be very visual to make it easier and more appealing to the readers. To accomplish this, I will use logos and graphic metaphors instead of text. Currently, we are working with the metaphors of bookshelves and doors. The entire collection will be browsed from general genres to specific books in a maximum of three steps in total. Therefore, the navigation will require only one intermediary step between the initial display of material and the final action of selecting a book.

My goal is to design a website that is friendly to the specified user, allowing them to learn the relevant contents of the collections as easily as possible. This will help them find books that they will be attracted to and interested in. They (the readers, their parents, or their teacher) will then order these books from our industry partner, which is the ultimate goal.

David Sarmento

I am working in conjunction with a law firm. My project is centered on a medical malpractice case in which there were complications and/or mismanagement of a vacuum-assisted birth. The child sustained traumatic cranial injuries that resulted in a surgery that removed part of the skull to prevent further hemorrhage. The child has subsequently had another surgery, and now must wear a helmet 23 hours a day, causing a multitude of discomforts and inconveniences. Resultant developmental delay is unclear at this time, but we may have that information in the future.

Upon discussion with the attorneys, it has been determined that their argument will emphasize the temporal details of the events that unfolded on the day of the birth, as well as the subsequent surgery on the child that followed. The reason for this is to visualize the argument that the birth was mismanaged, as well as to illustrate the events that followed the completion of delivery. Several ideas for visualizations have been discussed:

1.  A timeline of events that occurred from the time the mother began labor and the time the child was sent into surgery. This would include different events that took place during the birth, such as when and how many vacuum attempts were made, notes on the effort of the mother and progress of the baby, and other pertinent information. This timeline would be presented in comparison to a prescribed birth timeline that would include the proper procedures and when those procedures should have been performed.

The idea behind these visualizations is to emphasize that the medical staff did not perform their tasks within a reasonable standard of care, and to show how time was mismanaged and/or what the staff failed to notice or procedures they failed to perform that contributed to or possibly caused the injuries to the child.

Experimentally, I will be looking at animating the relationship between a text description of events and the sequential construction of a timeline, piece by piece.  The animated design would be tested against a static representation of the completed timeline with accompanying text.  This design is intended to investigate the effectiveness of an animated relationship of text and timeline vs. a non-animated relationship to text on the viewers’ retention and understanding of the information to aid in a jury’s capability to form a judgment on the case, and award damages, if applicable.

2.  An anatomical visualization of the proportion of the child's skull to the pelvic floor of the mother. The purpose of this visualization is to help the jury understand one of the main factors of this specific birth that contributed to the child's injuries. Preliminary experimental ideas include a presentation of this anatomical visualization, accompanied by guidelines on vacuum extraction birth from medical texts, including warning signs that were present in this specific birth. Independent variables are unclear at this point, due to the fact that data needed to properly construct this visualization may not be available. 

While exact plans for visualization are not yet solidified, it should be noted that aspects of visualizations constructed for the industry partner will be piloted and tested in the lab using both an eye tracker and interviews. 

Marcella Wolff

Visualizations are very important in supporting the recall of information, illustrating spoken arguments, guiding reasoning, and off-loading memory during trial, since jurors must not only learn and understand the case, they must ultimately make a decision from it.

I embraced the opportunity to develop an applied study with a law firm. The work I’m developing with the company is based on unexceptional cases of several trade schools located in California. These schools found the opportunity of making money easily because the financial reimbursement system in the United States makes it easy for them to do business. 

Several new trade schools offering medical diagnostic sonography programs were found recently in California. In their advertisements, these schools have similar structures and bases that are characterized by outstanding accredited schools. In short, the trade schools appear, in their advertisements, to be excellent.  However, all their advertisement material (program catalog, commercial videos, website, etc.), announce services and facilities that actually misrepresent their school.

The problem is that, after signing a consumer information document, students pay an average of $30,000 for the program, supported by public loans and grants, and believe that their efforts will bring a better future for their lives. However, due to the unprepared level of the students after graduation, the very limited practice of ultrasounds throughout education, and their ineligibility to sit for the ARDMS exam (certification the sonography technician), students are unable to become, at any point, a sonography professional.

As a result, these students have sought their rights under the services of KCR. Since students sign the consumer information document, they are only able to claim their rights under a process of arbitration—not a jury trial. This means that the case is heard only by one arbitrator (usually a lawyer or judge who is retired). Thus, the qualities of an arbitration case have been taken into account while designing visualizations, as well as the rationale behind my work.

Based on these trade school cases, my aim is to develop a formula of visualization which will aid the attorney to defend the clients’ rights during arbitration. This formula will be designed as a template from which evidence from each particular case for misrepresentation can be adapted.

There are several elements (course descriptions, hours of practice, statement of qualified teachers, etc.) which support the main evidence of misrepresentation.  Promises that have been made by the trade schools will be contrasted with what students actually received from the schools. These elements rely on real commercial materials created by the schools and presented to students, in addition to facts and client testimonials.

Considering that the arbitrator has his first contact with the case when reading the case brief one week before the arbitration event, learning from the case brief may represent construction of knowledge.  The attorney submits the case brief with evidence together with respective attached exhibits —raw and narrative evidence and visualizations—which can be displayed along with the case brief. I believe that presenting visualizations for the first time during a hearing may support the retrieval of knowledge and visually organize knowledge constructed previously. In this way, the arbitration after brief reading may work as a knowledge consolidation process. The process, seen as construction and consolidation of knowledge, should account for a later decision on guilt as well as a damage award. With my experiment, I aim at examining how visualizations used during the hearing event influence the learning process and later decision making.

—Kathleen McPartland, Public Affairs and Publications

—Photo by Erik Aguilar