Bar and Line Graph Comprehension: An Interaction of Top‐Down and Bottom‐Up Processes

Topics in Cognitive Science 3 (3):560-578 (2011)
This experiment investigated the effect of format (line vs. bar), viewers’ familiarity with variables, and viewers’ graphicacy (graphical literacy) skills on the comprehension of multivariate (three variable) data presented in graphs. Fifty-five undergraduates provided written descriptions of data for a set of 14 line or bar graphs, half of which depicted variables familiar to the population and half of which depicted variables unfamiliar to the population. Participants then took a test of graphicacy skills. As predicted, the format influenced viewers’ interpretations of data. Specifically, viewers were more likely to describe x–y interactions when viewing line graphs than when viewing bar graphs, and they were more likely to describe main effects and “z–y” (the variable in the legend) interactions when viewing bar graphs than when viewing line graphs. Familiarity of data presented and individuals’ graphicacy skills interacted with the influence of graph format. Specifically, viewers were most likely to generate inferences only when they had high graphicacy skills, the data were familiar and thus the information inferred was expected, and the format supported those inferences. Implications for multivariate data display are discussed
Keywords Graph comprehension  Display design  Individual differences
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2009.01066.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 22,675
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Barbara Tversky (2011). Visualizing Thought. Topics in Cognitive Science 3 (3):499-535.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

32 ( #134,851 of 2,144,969 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

6 ( #100,408 of 2,144,969 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.