The Impact of Visualisation Type and Topic Relevance on Understanding and Decision-making in Context of Covid-19 Infection Rates.

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Visual representations of data have been of interest in many studies and appear to improve understanding as compared to presenting numbers alone. The way data is visualized can also have an effect on understanding, as well as decision-making. A relatively novel area of interest is the relationship between the topic relevance of the visualisation and understanding and decision-making. Filling this gap and adding to existing literature examining different types of visualisations, the current study aimed to investigate the impact of the same data presented as either stocks or flows and topic relevance (high versus low) on understanding and decision-making. A 2x2 between-subjects design was conducted with 162 participants who lived in the Netherlands using an online Qualtrics questionnaire. Findings revealed that stock graphs were understood better than flow graphs and that stock data led to more extreme decision-making scores. No significant effects were found for topic relevance on understanding, nor on decision-making. The current research project provides implications for data visualisation designers: the way a graph is designed can influence the way the message is perceived in the recipient. Flow graphs should be designed with caution. Albeit a successful manipulation check for topic relevance, the current study did not demonstrate a significant effect of the second independent variable: topic relevance. Future research could investigate topic relevance further and in more detail. All in all, the current research project has contributed to literature about data visualisations and how different formats of the same data can influence understanding and decision-making.
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