Processing Speed and Comprehensibility of Visualizations and Texts

Michaela Tuscher

Supervisor(s): Johanna Schmidt

VRVis Research Center

Abstract: As visualizations get more and more important in everyday life, it is crucial to find out how helpful they actually are, especially in comparison to text. This state-of-the-art report outlines if static visualizations or texts are processed faster by humans and which one is better comprehensible. For this purpose, 19 studies, two meta-analyses, and one article are discussed. In general, no global answer could be found as there were only a few studies directly comparing text to visualizations without additional text, and these studies had conflictive results. The majority of the studies compared text to text with additional visualizations, and showed their positive as well as negative impacts. When it comes to processing times, there are no comparative studies at all. Concerning comprehensibility, the studies showed some interesting results. If there are only visualizations or only texts, both seem to be equally well comprehensible. Adding visualizations to texts increases comprehensibility in most cases. While decorative pictures can lift the mood and increase learning performance, they can also divert the attention away from the important things. Also, especially younger children and poor learners can have problems with linking information from texts and visualizations.
Keywords: Scientific Visualization
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Year: 2022