Cognitive themes emerging from air photo interpretation texts published to 1960

Raechel A. Bianchetti, Alan M. MacEachren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Remotely sensed images are important sources of information for a range of spatial problems. Air photo interpretation emerged as a discipline in response to the need to develop a systematic method for analysis of reconnaissance photographs during World War I. Remote sensing research has focused on the development of automated methods of image analysis, shifting focus away from human interpretation processes. However, automated methods are far from perfect and human interpretation remains an important component of image analysis. One important source of information concerning human image interpretation process is textual guides written within the discipline. These early texts put more emphasis than more recent texts, on the details of the interpretation process, the role of the human in the process, and the cognitive skills involved. In the research reported here, we use content analysis to evaluate the discussion of air photo interpretation in historical texts published between 1922 and 1960. Results indicate that texts from this period emphasized the documentation of relationships between perceptual cues and images features of common interest while reasoning skill and knowledge were discussed less so. The results of this analysis provide a framework of expert image skills needed to perform image interpretation tasks. The framework is useful for informing the design of semi-automated tools for performing analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-571
Number of pages21
JournalISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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