Narrative Spaces in the Representation and Understanding of Evolution

Camillia Matuk, David Uttal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Experts familiar with both their content and representational system use cladograms to reason about species' phylogenies. But for novices, these diagrams rather tend to cue folk narrative beliefs of evolution. This chapter offers a cognitive semiotic account of common misinterpretations of cladograms. Interview excerpts show how undergraduates map narrative structures of their folk beliefs as metaphors onto the spatial structures of the diagram; how folk beliefs, as well as knowledge of representational systems from other domains, create contexts for mistaken interpretations; and how specific manipulations of the diagram's presentation (e.g., animation) reveal these interpretations to be flexible. Based on our findings, we describe the design and pedagogical affordances of an interactive diagram to address novices' narrative intuitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEvolution Challenges
Subtitle of host publicationIntegrating Research and Practice in Teaching and Learning about Evolution
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199949557
ISBN (Print)9780199730421
StatePublished - Sep 20 2012


  • Cladograms
  • Cognitive semiotics
  • Diagrammatic interpretation
  • Folk beliefs
  • Narrative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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