We are going to talk about the history of mind maps and to begin with, we are going to talk about spider diagram. A spider diagram is an extension of a Venn or Euler diagram which is a diagram that shows all of the possible relationships between a specific set of objects.

Venn diagrams have been around since the late 1800’s and were first used by John Venn. They are diagrams that use circles to analyze different probability propositions. They are used most commonly in the fields of probability, logic, statistics, linguistics and computer science. Euler diagrams also use circles to analyze the relationship between a set of objects. The first use of Euler diagrams is typically associated with Leonhard Euler who lived during the 1700’s.

Venn diagrams are very closely associated with Euler diagrams also referred to as Eulerian circles.

The spider diagram is an expansion of the Venn and Euler diagrams that adds existential points to them using branches to link the different sets together. Spider diagrams expand on the black and white comparisons of Venn and Euler diagrams and adds an “or” component. For example, if a Venn diagram is analyzing the similarities between dogs and horses, the spider diagram would address those similarities between dogs and horses and add in cats to the mix. It essentially provides the opportunity for you to address more complex probability theories like those found in “if…then” situations

A mind map looks much more like a spider diagram than a Venn or Euler diagram but rather than having multiple sets or objects being analy zed, it has one single object that is being fleshed out more fully through the branches.

The term mind map was first popularized in the 1970’s by Tony Buzan a psychology author and television personality with a television series that aired on BBC TV called Use Your Head . Through this series and the companion book series, Buzan introduced and popularized the term mind map. The idea was inspired, in large part, by the concept of general semantics which was developed by Alfred Korzybski. The principles of general semantics explain that human beings are limited in what they know by their own experiences and personal instincts. That is a very oversimplified explanation of general semantics as I understand it. Through general semantics, Korzybski suggests that we approach life with an attitude of “I don’t know. Let’s see.” This means giving y ourself the ability to consider that you don’t automatically know every thing. It also means that you open y our mind to possibilities that lie outside of y our sphere of experience.

General semantics suggests that because of our language and our pre-disposed notions we experience world through a filter that alters our ability to truly face reality. There are some tools that are suggested to help someone practice general semantics.

1. Sit in silence

By taking the time to sit in silence and truly consider what’s happening in the world, a person can look past those barriers that cause us to view the world through our own perspective. It isn’t that much different than intentional meditation where you are focused on receiving the true reality of the world.

2. E-prime

E-prime is short for English Prime. E-prime is a prescriptive version of the English language without all forms of the verb “to be”. It was proposed by Dr. David Bourland, Jr. as an addition to general semantics after the death of Korzybski. Dr. Bourland studied under Korzybski and suggested E-prime as a way to enforce the teachings of general semantics. He compiled and published three volumes of essay s to support E-prime. To Be or Not: An E-Prime Anthology, More E-Prime: To Be or Not II: 1994 and E-Prime III: a third anthology: 1997.

These are just two of the more simple tools used to enforce the teachings of general semantics which is a teaching largely used in different areas of education that involve communication like journalism. Buzan worked as an educational consultant and wrote several books on various aspects of the brain as it relates to memory. He created mind mapping as a way to better reflect how the mind works to receive and process information. His theory was based on the idea that when readers scan a page they do it in a non-linear fashion that isn’t reflected in the traditional way that information is shared in the written form especially through outlines.

Forms of Visualization

Mind mapping is a form of data visualization. It allows the person creating the mind map to visually outline information as it relates to a specific concept. There are other forms of visualization that are routinely used to take a concept from the idea phase into the execution phase.

Concept Maps

Concept maps are diagrams that show the relationship between concepts. It’s a graphical tool used to organize knowledge.

Concept map analyzes multiple concepts typically using boxes or circles that are connected using arrows that have been labeled with linking phrases in a downward structure. Unlike a mind map, a concept map isn’t based on a central idea. It involves multiple ideas that are analyzed as they relate to other ideas.

Modelling Graphs

Graphs that are created with the idea of indicating a relationship between different objects are considered modelling graphs. These are typically fairly straight forward and the relationship is indicated with black lines. They differ from mind maps because mind maps do indicate relationship but as it is analyzed within the mental context of the person creating the mind map. While there is a procedure for creating a mind map, the way it looks will vary depending on what’s being analyzed and who’s doing it.

Concept maps and modelling graphs both analyze concepts and information but unlike mind maps, they have a very specific construct and purpose that limits the way the analysis will take place. Mind maps are created to follow the flow of the brain of the person creating it. So while it does have a structure, much like that of the concept maps and modeling graphs, its structure is more flexible. Mind mapping can be a very powerful tool to create structure and organization around a central theme. While the most obvious use for a mind map would be in the brainstorming process