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The perception of visual uncertainty representation by non-experts

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Author: Tak, S. · Toet, A. · Erp, J. van
Publisher: IEEE Computer Society
Source:IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 6, 20, 935-943
Identifier: 503230
doi: doi:10.1109/TVCG.2013.247
Keywords: Perception · non-expert audiences · spatial data · Uncertainty visualization · user study · Human Performances · PCS - Perceptual and Cognitive Systems · ELSS - Earth, Life and Social Sciences


We tested how non-experts judge point probability for seven different visual representations of uncertainty, using a case from an unfamiliar domain. Participants (n = 140) rated the probability that the boundary between two earth layers passed through a given point, for seven different visualizations of the positional uncertainty of the boundary. For all types of visualizations, most observers appear to construct an internal model of the uncertainty distribution that closely resembles a normal distribution. However, the visual form of the uncertainty range (i.e., the visualization type) affects this internal model and the internal model relates to participants' numeracy. We conclude that perceived certainty is affected by its visual representation. In a follow-up experiment we found no indications that the absence (or presence) of a prominent center line in the visualization affects the internal model. We discuss if and how our results inform which visual representation is most suitable for representing uncertainty and make suggestions for future work. © 2014 IEEE.