An Empirical Evaluation of Chernoff Faces, Star Glyphs, and Spatial Visualisations for Binary Data

Lee, M.D., Reilly, R.E. and Butavicius, M.A.

    Data visualization has the potential to assist humans in analyzing and comprehending large volumes of data, and to detect patterns, clusters and outliers that are not obvious using non-graphical forms of presentation. For this reason, data visualizations have an important role to play in a diverse range of applied problems, including data exploration and mining, information retrieval, and intelligence analysis. Unfortunately, while a variety of different approaches are available for data visualization, there have been few rigorous evaluations of their effectiveness. This paper presents the results of a controlled experiment comparing the ability four different visualization approaches to help people answer meaningful questions for binary data sets. Two of these visualizations, Chernoff faces and star glyphs, represent objects using simple icon-like displays. The other two visualizations use a spatial arrangement of the objects, based on a model of human mental representation, where more similar objects are placed nearer each other. One of these spatial displays uses a common features model of similarity, while the other uses a distinctive features model. It is found that both glyph visualizations lead to slow, inaccurate answers being given with low confidence, while the faster and more confident answers for spatial visualizations are only accurate when the common features similarity model is used.
Cite as: Lee, M.D., Reilly, R.E. and Butavicius, M.A. (2003). An Empirical Evaluation of Chernoff Faces, Star Glyphs, and Spatial Visualisations for Binary Data. In Proc. Australian Symposium on Information Visualisation, (invis.au'03), Adelaide, Australia. CRPIT, 24. Pattison, T. and Thomas, B., Eds. ACS. 1-10.
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