Differences in comprehensibility between three-variable bar and line graphs

David Peebles, Nadia Ali

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


We report an experiment investigating graph comprehension. Verbal protocol data were collected while participants attempted to understand six bar or line graphs representing relationships between three variables. Analysis of the verbal
protocols revealed significant differences in the level of comprehension between the two graph types. Specifically, a significant proportion of line graph users was either unable to interpret the graphs, or misinterpreted information presented in
them. These errors did not occur in the bar graph condition. The difference is explained in terms of the high salience of the lines in line graphs which hinders the correct or full interpretation of the relationships depicted. The results of the experiment provide a strong rationale for the use of bar graphs to display such three-variable data sets, particularly for a general audience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of CogSci 2009
Subtitle of host publication31st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsNiels Taatgen, Hedderik Van Rijn
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 29 Jul 20091 Aug 2009
Conference number: 31


Conference31st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
Abbreviated titleCOGSCI2009
Internet address


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