Peebles, David and Ali, Nadia (2015) Expert interpretation of bar and line graphs: The role of graphicacy in reducing the effect of graph format. Frontiers in Psychology, 6 (1673). ISSN 1664-1078

The distinction between informational and computational equivalence of representations, first articulated by Larkin and Simon (1987) has been a fundamental principle in the analysis of diagrammatic reasoning which has been supported empirically on numerous occasions. We present an experiment that investigates this principle in relation to the performance of expert graph users of 2 × 2 'interaction' bar and line graphs. The study sought to determine whether expert interpretation is affected by graph format in the same way that novice interpretations are. The findings revealed that, unlike novices—and contrary to the assumptions of several graph comprehension models—experts' performance was the same for both graph formats, with their interpretation of bar graphs being no worse than that for line graphs. We discuss the implications of the study for guidelines for presenting such data and for models of expert graph comprehension.

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