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Jessica K. Witt, Amelia C. Warden; Better sensitivity to linear and nonlinear trends with position than with color. Journal of Vision 2021;21(5):12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.5.12.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Useful data visualizations have the potential to leverage the visual system's natural abilities to process and summarize simple and complex information. Here, we tested whether the design recommendations made for pairwise comparisons generalize to the detection of trends. We created two different types of graphs: line graphs and stripplots. These graphs were created from identical datasets that simulated temperature changes across time. These datasets varied in the type of trend (linear and exponential). Human observers performed a trend detection task for which they judged whether the trend in temperature over time was increasing or decreasing. Participants were more sensitive to trend direction with line graphs compared to stripplots. Participants also demonstrated a systematic bias to respond that the trend was increasing for line graphs. However, this bias decreased with increasing sensitivity. Despite the better sensitivity to line graphs, more than half of the participants found the stripplots more appealing and liked them more than the line graphs. In conclusion, our results indicate that, for trend detection, depicting data with position (line graphs) leads to better performance compared to depicting graphs with color (stripplots). Yet, graphs with color (stripplots) were preferred over the line graphs, suggesting that there may be a tradeoff between the aesthetic design of the graphs and the precision in communicating the information.
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