Not sure if this is the right place for this question that I find hard to formulate in the first place...

In a paper, I'd like to argue that interactivity helps to develop an understanding of a thing. This is in context is astronomy, scientists learning about the universe basically. I'd like to argue in favour of interactive data exploration. This is not going to be a psychology paper. To put it bluntly, I'd like to better understand this to write the motivational section, use the proper terms, and have a nice citation I can put at the end of it :)

Let me try to explain what I'm after.

Google Maps analogy:

Interative maps give an overview of the world and then allow the user to zoom in, pan around and look at streetview pics. If this information would be presented in a non-interative way, say a box you can put coordinates in and you get the streetview picture out a minute later, the user would not just be slower, but would not be able to explore and understand the world in the same way that interactive maps allow.

Slider analogy:

Say you have two parameters and an result value that results from it due to some hidden math. If I give you two sliders, you can play around with them and develop a sense for the correlation easily, a child would get an intuition for it. But if I give you a form where you have to type in two numbers and press a button to see the result, it be almost impossible to develop the same level of understanding.

I think that the instantaneous feedback and the ability to 'play' with it, really make it far easier for us to learn.


Has there been some study of this kind of learning? Does it have a name? Where would I start to research this? How do I go about arguing that interactivity offers a great benefit to explore, say, a dataset? That interactivity offers more than just the efficency gained from less waiting for results.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is your specific question? I see what you'd like to do, but not what question you want answered. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Krysta I find it hard to formulate specific questions. This is way out of my area of expertise. I've tried (see edit) to improve. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ Two concepts that might describe what you are looking for are exploratory learning with cognitive tools. $\endgroup$
    – huh
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


You can attack it from many different angles.

Perhaps a good place to start is the distinction between the behaviourist and cognitive learning theories. Although both can be facilitated using interaction, behaviourist theories put the teacher as the focal point, whereas cognitive ones put the learner first. In that respect, a good interactive learning design will give learners more control over the learning experience. I also believe you can demonstrate that interactive learning has greater potential to be mapped to experiential learning (see Kolb Cycle for instance).

Another related topic is that interactive learning based on self-exploration is likely to result in higher intrinsic motivation compared to guided learning.

Another line of argument can many aspects of interaction that can aid cognition (or reduce cognitive load, if you wish) - A book (non interactive) is a get-it-or-leave-it type of delivery; interactive systems enable techniques such as progressive disclosure or contextual help which can markedly improve comprehension.

Perhaps important to assert that interactive learning, on its own, does not secure better comprehension - the experience design is what really matters; interactive learning can simply enable features that non-interactive learning cannot.

You should be able to find some research papers on the topic via Google Scholar.

These are just a few leads.

  • $\begingroup$ This helped me to understand my own question better. I found one paper "Timing Matters: The Impact of Immediate and Delayed Feedback on Artificial Language Learning" Opitz et al. 2011 that goes into the direction I was looking for. There is also a large body of work done in computer science to utilize the positive effect of interactivity when studying data. The term to google is "Interactive Data Exploration". $\endgroup$
    – Stefan
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 19:50

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