Mind map

A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is hierarchical and shows relationships among pieces of the whole.[1] It is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those major ideas.

A mind map about the cubital fossa or elbow pit, including an illustration of the central concept

Mind maps can also be drawn by hand, either as "notes" during a lecture, meeting or planning session, for example, or as higher quality pictures when more time is available. Mind maps are considered to be a type of spider diagram.[2] A similar concept in the 1970s was "idea sun bursting".[3]


Although the term "mind map" was first popularized by British popular psychology author and television personality Tony Buzan, the use of diagrams that visually "map" information using branching and radial maps traces back centuries. These pictorial methods record knowledge and model systems, and have a long history in learning, brainstorming, memory, visual thinking, and problem solving by educators, engineers, psychologists, and others. Some of the earliest examples of such graphical records were developed by Porphyry of Tyros, a noted thinker of the 3rd century, as he graphically visualized the concept categories of Aristotle. Philosopher Ramon Llull (1235–1315) also used such techniques.

The semantic network was developed in the late 1950s as a theory to understand human learning and developed further by Allan M. Collins and M. Ross Quillian during the early 1960s. Mind maps are similar in structure to concept maps, developed by learning experts in the 1970s, but differ in that mind maps are simplified by focusing around a single central key concept.


Buzan's specific approach, and the introduction of the term "mind map", arose during a 1974 BBC TV series he hosted, called Use Your Head.[4][5] In this show, and companion book series, Buzan promoted his conception of radial tree, diagramming key words in a colorful, radiant, tree-like structure.[6]

Buzan says the idea was inspired by Alfred Korzybski's general semantics as popularized in science fiction novels, such as those of Robert A. Heinlein and A. E. van Vogt. He argues that while "traditional" outlines force readers to scan left to right and top to bottom, readers actually tend to scan the entire page in a non-linear fashion. Buzan's treatment also uses then-popular assumptions about the functions of cerebral hemispheres in order to explain the claimed increased effectiveness of mind mapping over other forms of note making.

Differences from other visualizationsEdit

  • Concept maps: Mind maps differ from concept maps in that mind maps are based on a radial hierarchy (tree structure) denoting relationships with a central concept,[7] whereas concept maps can be more free-form, based on connections between concepts in more diverse patterns.[8] Also, concept maps typically have text labels on the links between nodes. However, either can be part of a larger personal knowledge base system.
  • Modeling graphs or graphical modeling languages: There is no rigorous right or wrong with mind maps, which rely on the arbitrariness of mnemonic associations to aid people's information organization and memory. In contrast, a modeling graph such as a UML diagram structures elements using a precise standardized iconography to aid the design of systems.



Cunningham (2005) conducted a user study in which 80% of the students thought "mindmapping helped them understand concepts and ideas in science".[9] Other studies also report some subjective positive effects on the use of mind maps.[10][11] Positive opinions on their effectiveness, however, were much more prominent among students of art and design than in students of computer and information technology, with 62.5% vs 34% (respectively) agreeing that they were able to understand concepts better with mind mapping software.[10] Farrand, Hussain, and Hennessy (2002) found that spider diagrams (similar to concept maps) had limited, but significant, impact on memory recall in undergraduate students (a 10% increase over baseline for a 600-word text only) as compared to preferred study methods (a 6% increase over baseline).[12] This improvement was only robust after a week for those in the diagram group and there was a significant decrease in motivation compared to the subjects' preferred methods of note taking. A meta study about concept mapping concluded that concept mapping is more effective than "reading text passages, attending lectures, and participating in class discussions".[13] The same study also concluded that concept mapping is slightly more effective "than other constructive activities such as writing summaries and outlines". However, results were inconsistent, with the authors noting "significant heterogeneity was found in most subsets". In addition, they concluded that low-ability students may benefit more from mind mapping than high-ability students.


Joeran Beel and Stefan Langer conducted a comprehensive analysis of the content of mind maps.[14] They analysed 19,379 mind maps from 11,179 users of the mind mapping applications SciPlore MindMapping (now Docear) and MindMeister. Results include that average users create only a few mind maps (mean=2.7), average mind maps are rather small (31 nodes) with each node containing about three words (median). However, there were exceptions. One user created more than 200 mind maps, the largest mind map consisted of more than 50,000 nodes and the largest node contained ~7,500 words. The study also showed that between different mind mapping applications (Docear vs MindMeister) significant differences exist related to how users create mind maps.

Automatic creationEdit

There have been some attempts to create mind maps automatically. Brucks & Schommer created mind maps automatically from full-text streams.[15] Rothenberger et al. extracted the main story of a text and presented it as mind map.[16] And there is a patent about automatically creating sub-topics in mind maps.[17]


Mind-mapping software can be used to organize large amounts of information, combining spatial organization, dynamic hierarchical structuring and node folding. Software packages can extend the concept of mind-mapping by allowing individuals to map more than thoughts and ideas with information on their computers and the Internet, like spreadsheets, documents, Internet sites and images.[18] It has been suggested that mind-mapping can improve learning/study efficiency up to 15% over conventional note-taking.[12]


The following dozen examples of mind maps show the range of styles that a mind map may take, from hand-drawn to computer-generated and from mostly text to highly illustrated. Despite their stylistic differences, all of the examples share a tree structure that hierarchically connects sub-topics to a main topic.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Carolyn H. Hopper, Practicing College Learning Strategies, 7th Edition, ISBN 9781305109599, Ch. 7
  2. ^ "Mind Map noun - definition in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online". Dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  3. ^ "Who invented mind mapping". Mind-mapping.org. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  4. ^ "Roots of visual mapping - The mind-mapping.org Blog". Mind-mapping.org. 2004-05-23. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  5. ^ Buzan, Tony (1974). Use Your Head. London: BBC Books.
  6. ^ "Buzan claims mind mapping his invention in interview". KnowledgeBoard. Archived from the original on 2010-02-13.
  7. ^ Lanzing, Jan (January 1998). "Concept mapping: tools for echoing the minds eye". Journal of Visual Literacy. 18 (1): 1–14 (4). doi:10.1080/23796529.1998.11674524. The difference between concept maps and mind maps is that a mind map has only one main concept, while a concept map may have several. This means that a mind map can be represented in a hierarchical tree structure.
  8. ^ Romance, Nancy R.; Vitale, Michael R. (Spring 1999). "Concept mapping as a tool for learning: broadening the framework for student-centered instruction". College Teaching. 47 (2): 74–79 (78). doi:10.1080/87567559909595789. JSTOR 27558942. Shavelson et al. (1994) identified a number of variations of the general technique presented here for developing concept maps. These include whether (1) the map is hierarchical or free-form in nature, (2) the concepts are provided with or determined by the learner, (3) the students are provided with or develop their own structure for the map, (4) there is a limit on the number of lines connecting concepts, and (5) the connecting links must result in the formation of a complete sentence between two nodes.
  9. ^ Glennis Edge Cunningham (2005). Mindmapping: Its Effects on Student Achievement in High School Biology (Ph.D.). The University of Texas at Austin.
  10. ^ a b Brian Holland; Lynda Holland; Jenny Davies (2004). "An investigation into the concept of mind mapping and the use of mind mapping software to support and improve student academic performance". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ D'Antoni, A.V.; Zipp, G.P. (2006). "Applications of the Mind Map Learning Technique in Chiropractic Education: A Pilot Study and Literature". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ a b Farrand, P.; Hussain, F.; Hennessy, E. (2002). "The efficacy of the mind map study technique". Medical Education. 36 (5): 426–431. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2923.2002.01205.x. PMID 12028392. S2CID 29278241. Archived from the original on 2013-01-05. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  13. ^ Nesbit, J.C.; Adesope, O.O. (2006). "Learning with concept and knowledge maps: A meta-analysis". Review of Educational Research. Sage Publications. 76 (3): 413–448. doi:10.3102/00346543076003413. S2CID 122082944.
  14. ^ Joeran Beel, Stefan Langer (2011). "An Exploratory Analysis of Mind Maps" (PDF). Proceedings of the 11th ACM Symposium on Document Engineering (DocEng'11). ACM. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  15. ^ Claudine Brucks, Christoph Schommer (2008). "Assembling Actor-based Mind-Maps from Text Stream". arXiv:0810.4616 [cs.CL].
  16. ^ Rothenberger, T; Oez, S; Tahirovic, E; Schommer, Christoph (2008). "Figuring out Actors in Text Streams: Using Collocations to establish Incremental Mind-maps". arXiv:0803.2856. Bibcode:2008arXiv0803.2856R. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ Robert Plotkin (2009). "Software tool for creating outlines and mind maps that generates subtopics automatically". USPTO Application: 20090119584.
  18. ^ Santos, Devin (15 February 2013). "Top 10 Totally Free Mind Mapping Software Tools". IMDevin. Archived from the original on 7 August 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013.

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