How Do Individuals Understand Multiple Conceptual Modeling Scripts?

Mohammad Jabbari, Jan Recker, Peter Green, Karl Werder

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Because most real-world domains intended to be supported by an information system are complex, practitioners often use multiple different types of conceptual modeling scripts to understand them. We performed two experiments to examine how two theoretical factors of multiple scripts—combined ontological completeness and ontological overlap—influence how users develop an understanding of a real-world domain from multiple scripts. Results of the first experiment show that to some degree, ontological overlap improves participants’ understanding of a domain, more so than combined ontological completeness. In the second experiment, we tracked the eye movement data of participants to understand how ontological overlap between scripts impacts users’ information search and cognitive integration processes. We found that some occurrence of semantically similar constructs between scripts helps individuals to identify and relate constructs presented in different scripts. Users, therefore, can identify and focus on script areas that are relevant to their problem tasks. However, a high level of ontological overlap decreases the attention paid by participants to relevant task-specific areas because they spend more time searching for relevant information. Together, our findings both refine and extend existing conceptual modeling theory. We clarify the dialectics between the full and parsimonious real-world representations offered through multiple scripts and the individual’s understanding of the domain that is represented by those scripts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1037-1070
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Ontological Overlap
  • representation theory
  • Conceptual Modeling
  • Combined Ontological Completeness
  • Domain Understanding
  • Eye-Tracking Experiment


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