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An Information-Processing Analysis of Graph Perception

David Simkin and Reid Hastie
Journal of the American Statistical Association
Vol. 82, No. 398 (Jun., 1987), pp. 454-465
DOI: 10.2307/2289447
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2289447
Page Count: 12
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An Information-Processing Analysis of Graph Perception
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Abstract

Recent work on graph perception has focused on the nature of the processes that operate when people decode the information represented in graphs. We began our investigations by gathering evidence that people have generic expectations about what types of information will be the major messages in various types of graphs. These graph schemata suggested how graph type and judgment type would interact to determine the speed and accuracy of quantitative information extraction. These predictions were confirmed by the finding that a comparison judgment was most accurate when the judgment required assessing position along a common scale (simple bar chart), had intermediate accuracy on length judgments (divided bar chart), and was least accurate when assessing angles (pie chart). In contrast, when the judgment was an estimate of the proportion of the whole, angle assessments (pie chart) were as accurate as position (simple bar chart) and more accurate than length (divided bar chart). Proposals for elementary information processes involving anchoring, scanning, projection, superimposition, and detection operators were made to explain this interaction.

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