The first example that comes to mind when thinking about reductionism in brain science would be the Punnett square. Those of us with experience studying genetics understand that this isn’t how heredity works from a biologic perspective but this simplistic rendering is helpful in understanding Mendel’s theories of inheritance.
This matters upstream from data visualization. We are taught the importance of pre-attentive attributes but not the cautionary tale of how they can unduly influence our perception. These altered perceptions may be conscious or unconscious but as our brains attempt to simplify what we are viewing it is also often adding information that is not actually present--it can distort messages.
This can happen for many reasons but if we recall that visual information is processed on two different pathways, it makes a little more sense. The primary visual cortex processes information that answers the “what” we are looking at toward the bottom of the brain (inferior pathway) while information that responds to “where” is diverted to the top of the brain (superior pathway). Inferior pathway detects faces, shapes, colors, identity, motion--superior pathway is concerned with depth and spatial information. This describes the interplay between pre-attentive and attentive attributes.
Low-level processing occurs in the retina and detects images, intermediate-level processing distinguishes which surfaces and boundaries belong to specific objects, and high level processing integrates information--Reductionism in art and brain science, Eric R. Kandel
When we are observing works of art our brain associates memories of other artistic works in addition to past life experiences. I argue this happens with charts and graphics as well.
Why Visual Analytics? Pre-attentive attributes
...to be continued
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In a world of "evidence-based" medicine I am a bigger fan of practice-based evidence.
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