social, health, political imagery through the lens of G J Huba PhD © 2012-2021

Content is Queen. The ultimate point of any mind map is to use and present information clearly in a way that communicates conclusions  that are valid, reliable, and important.

Some examples. Are all of those mind maps floating around showing psychological variables and purporting to illustrate major findings and theories actually using valid information? (Guessing what all people feel like or how they learn and thinking it must be valid since, after all, you are a human, is probably not an indication that you are using highly valid data.) What is the expertise of the individuals who generated the information portrayed in the mind map? Was the information based on empirical studies, well-established theory, the musings of a pop psychology writer, what your Mom taught you, what your best friend thinks, what you saw in a movie? Did you (as a student or casual reader) just read a popular psychology book and accept what that person wrote on how you can be more rich, famous, happy, socially connected, sexy,and thin?

Much attention in mind mapping goes into the “artistic presentation” aspects of the maps, the colors, the rules, the images. And yes, prettier, neater, more original, and more creative maps are probably better received than those that use none of the great tools of visual thinking. But the reality is that the clothing does not make the person nor does the artistry of the map make the content more valid or reliable or important.

The first mind map below shows some of my thoughts and suggestions about how mind maps should be reviewed by experts in the content areas being addressed if the map will be used for purposes other than personal learning or process documentation or as art. That is, if the point of the map is to present facts, then the purported facts really need to be checked by someone who is an expert in the content area. In most cases, I have no problem with authors being responsible for their own work so long as they clearly state their own expertise levels and where the data for the mind maps originated. I have a big problem with someone who is not a trained mental health professional telling the world how to diagnose depression or ADHD. If the author of the map is not an acknowledged expert presenting her or his own work, then the source and limits of the information in the mind map need to be stated, and in some cases, independently evaluated.

Evaluating Mind Maps with Expert Content

The second mind map is actually just the first one produced in iMindMap exported into the alternative computer program MindNode Pro. Is the first map prettier than the second? Sure seems so to me. Is the first map more valid? No. It contains identical information. Does the first map communicate better than the second? Sure seems so to me.

Keep in mind that the goal of most mind mapping is to present valid, reliable, and important information in way that is easily understood, easily remembered, and easily communicated. Using this criterion the first map is probably significantly better.

iMindMap5 Map

The third mind map is identical in content to the two maps just considered but was generated using default options in the program XMIND. The style of the mind map is similar to that of another program (Mindjet AKA MindManager), and is that many argue is the best for presenting information to those in business.

XM Evaluating Mind Maps with %22Expert Content%22

Hopefully by the time you read this, you will have looked carefully at the actual content of the mind map in one or more of the variations. Content is Queen; it is all about the ideas. In the process of mapping, we need to incorporate references to the source of the information displayed. Pretty is good and memorable, but is not more important than the information presented. Content is Queen, although she does look better in a nice dress or business suit.

Keyword Boardtopics and sub-topics: evaluating mind maps with “expert content” criteria information accurate source stated authoritative recognized cited by others opinion? state adult learning multi-channel non-hierarchical non-linear iterative approximations successive small steps link existing knowledge experience emotions cultural memory consensus neuroscience “catchy” style serious disease disaster war human toll horror funny often many topics “lighter” facts graphic usually images fonts colors this opinion mine g j huba phd @drhubaevaluator © 2012 all rights reserved based professional judgment experience 15 years healthcare professionals researchers physicians nurses psychologists social workers others administrators no science citations but read dr seuss really early lexical mind mapper organic style tony buzan thinking flexible suggestions discussion @biggerplate quick notes iteration 1 imindmap mac written on limited to content purportedly expert reproducible empirical “textbook” peer review? content content content content most important meaningful valid reliable educational goals objectives audience mind maps uniqueness used color fonts non-linearity “artistic” memorable by established experts content visual thinkers other concerns mission critical data good empirical public never present as perfect examples medical safety criminal justice financial mental health reproducibility mind map logic data logic education logic expert knowledge conclusions



Post a comment
  1. January 30, 2013

    Hi George, thank you for this clear positionning about content validity and also for mentioning my blog.
    You are absolutely right to insist on the fact that mind map content are not always correct but might be used as a reference. We have same worries with wiki platforms but the social interaction allow some auto-regulation that we haven’t (yet) with mind map library. Indeed, if mind maps become more and more used as a content reference for teaching or acting, danger is at the door.

    I would like to comment about two other specific parts of your article:
    1) “mind maps should be reviewed by experts in the content areas being addressed if the map will be used for purposes other than personal learning”
    I’m promoting mind mapping among kids and student as a technique for helping them to adapt to the new pedagogy, strongly focus on building knowledge by yourself. Kids create mind maps for personal learning and although they can put the knowledge the way they want, some expert (the teacher) MUST review as well and check if what is on the map is valid.

    2)”Keep in mind that the goal of most mind mapping is to present valid, reliable, and important information in way that is easily understood, easily remembered, and easily communicated”
    It’s true that it’s the case for most mind maps but in case of personal learning, it’s a personal work that must be valid of course but neither communicated nor presented to other, so that it may not be understood by someone else than the author. I know I’m a bit in the exception but if my project succeeds, it will (slightly) impact the norm.


    • January 30, 2013

      Thanks Phil. I am in agreement with all of your comments. I would push a little and say that I am really hoping that most maps will be using construct validity, but I will settle for content validity if that is all folks can get. I also hope that we will get fidelity to the sources cited which is an issue that haunts academic publications.

  2. January 29, 2013

    Agree with you comment re the 3rd display (XMINC) “. . . many argue is the best for presenting information to those in business”.

    I use FreePlane for planning film documentaries.

    Basically, most of the products in this group are single-root hierarchical trees. They serve a useful purpose so long as users recognize that there are limitations with single root trees.

    For ‘connect-the-dots’ problem solving (i.e. major crimes investigations), you can easily have 1,000 nodes, that initially, at least, need to be organized under multiple roots. The last thing you would want is to have to go to multiple sheets or canvases and oftentimes it is very useful to be able to replicate certain nodes under different trees (e.g. alias nodes)

    As the number of nodes increases, you end up having to traverse more and more screen real estate. This is a natural consequence of a drawing technique that presumes a hub. Circles only have 360 degrees.

    One way to optimize 2D space is to cascade outlines – you can make outlines of outlines to get a Rolodex -like cluster.

    The big advantage of Knowlegebases,(multi-root trees) is their ability to accommodate free-form searches across an entire space where most of your data automatically posts from multiple relational database management systems. It is convenient when Kbase nodes support URL links to save you from having to download content to the Kbase. The problem is URL content changes so running the same search on two different days can give you different results.

    I would be interested in hearing whether mind map products accommodate multi-root trees/URL links and more particularly,whether any incorporate free-form searches that extend to local space PLUS linked space.

    My company, Civerex Systems Inc. is looking for funding to bring to market what we feel will be a major product for the business

    Any interested parties can contact me at

    • January 30, 2013

      Thank you for your long comment. Some thoughts.

      XMIIND (and Mindjet) versus the rest. I do not “buy” the concept that the Mindjet/XMIND “sterile” mind maps are best for business. In a lot of ways I would argue that this style of presenting information tends to stifle creative thinking. I believe that Freeplane is an antiquated mind mapping program and that you can do much better work with even the minimal or free versions of the third generation mind map programs. Look at Roy Grubb’s wikiIT for suggestions. Most heavy duty modern mind mapping programs are surprisingly inexpensive.

      While there may be other products that do multidimensional mind mapping, two that are quite well known as being of high quality and user friendliness are Topicscape and The Brain. Both of these products can be multidimensional, store links, information, images, etc. Of the two, Topicscape uses a style and format that will be familiar to information technology professionals while The Brain is more free form and I rejected it for my own work because I felt it was very burdensome to work with. Both of these programs are knowledge bases in the sense that you are using the term. One of the earliest knowledge bases in the health area was mine on HIV treatment and social services which was a very complex set of internal and external hyperlinks. Roy Grubb’s formulation of mapping in Topicscape and your stated application sound like they could be a good match.

      Modern mind mapping programs have been adding features of cascading and links to internal and external objects for a decade. Internal links include notes, data files stored as notes, and pictures. Most have good internal (within map searching) although I do not know of one that permits simultaneous web and internal searching. I do think simultaneous search would be very easy to implement by using Google searching of a limited domain of web sites (preselected by the map developer). Cascading maps are often called child maps. It seems to me that this concept is most effectively implemented in iMindMap.

      Virtually all of the modern mind mapping programs permit links to internal and external information. However, the links may require a special viewer or a copy of the original program. Philippe Packu has a blog (DrawMeAnIdea) post on Thinglink which can be used to easily add links to pictures (and pictures of mind maps) and will let you access external links from just a picture of a mind map stored on the web. This is a big breakthrough. See

      While I thought your post was a little “commercial,” I did let it be posted exactly as written. Permitting this comment to be posted does not constitute an endorsement of Civerex Systems or their current or proposed products.

  3. January 28, 2013

    Reblogged this on lava kafle kathmandu nepal.

Leave a Reply