Conceptual models of atmospheric space: A study of knowledge and concepts derived from direct and indirect experience of atmospheric dynamics
Brunskill, Jeffrey Charles
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This research considers the question of how the everyday experience of atmospheric dynamics influence how we think about the weather. It builds upon a diverse array of loosely coupled studies on topics related to atmospheric cognition, and the vast body of research on macrospatial terrestrial cognition to reason about knowledge and concepts of atmospheric phenomena. This work makes a new contribution by considering the atmosphere in light of existing theories of spatial cognition (Chapter 1-6), and by experimentally investigating the salience of spatial and temporal properties in concepts of large-scale dynamic geographic phenomena (Chapters 7-9). Research on how people conceptualize the patterns and processes inherent in atmospheric dynamics is limited. Relevant studies have primarily focused on knowledge and concepts that have evolved with the advent of modern meteorological theory and data-driven representations of the atmosphere. Many such concepts are tied to perspectives, or experiential sources, that are notably different from our everyday experience of the weather. Provided this background, the current research focuses on how knowledge is acquired as a basis for investigating concepts of atmospheric motions. The consideration of how, and from where, knowledge is acquired offers insight into the structure and development of weather concepts, especially given the multiple and varied sources from which knowledge may be acquired. Research on macrospatial terrestrial cognition serves as the theoretical basis for this study. The study of how spatial knowledge is acquired has long been a topic of interest, considered either explicitly or implicitly, in such research. The current theory draws specifically on prior classifications of cognitive scales of space, and the differences in mental models derived from direct experience and cartographic representations. Of particular interest are the insights, or issues, that arise from differences in how atmospheric and terrestrial spaces are perceived. These models are used to reason about the nature of concepts derived from everyday observation and the extent to which an observer can resolve the spatial and temporal characteristics of different atmospheric motions. This provides a platform to evaluate the role that data-driven representations and theories play in developing concepts of atmospheric motions, how these concepts might be expected to differ from those derived from direct experience, and how they interact. A point of particular interest is the role that spatial and temporal properties play in structuring concepts across this dimension. This topic serves as the basis for the experiment outlined herein. The results of an experiment involving 153 University at Buffalo undergraduates is presented. The experiment used a series of narratives to promote mental images of weather and non-weather events from both direct and data-driven indirect experiential frameworks. Subjects were presented with a series of queries regarding the spatial orientation and temporal order of incidents described in the scene as a basis for investigating the salience of spatial and temporal properties in concepts derived from the different experiential modes. The results of this experiment lend support to the hypothesis that the manner in which large scale dynamic events are experienced promotes temporal properties in concepts derived from direct experience, and spatial properties in concepts derived from indirect experience. The experiment provides important insight into research on narrative based mental imagery, concepts of large scale environments and concepts of dynamic geographic phenomena.