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Map LineUps: effects of spatial structure on graphical inference

Beecham, R., Dykes, J., Meulemans, W. , Slingsby, A., Turkay, C. & Wood, J. (2017). Map LineUps: effects of spatial structure on graphical inference. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 23(1), pp. 391-400. doi: 10.1109/tvcg.2016.2598862


Fundamental to the effective use of visualization as an analytic and descriptive tool is the assurance that presenting data visually provides the capability of making inferences from what we see. This paper explores two related approaches to quantifying the confidence we may have in making visual inferences from mapped geospatial data. We adapt Wickham et al.’s ‘Visual Line-up’ method as a direct analogy with Null Hypothesis Significance Testing (NHST) and propose a new approach for generating more credible spatial null hypotheses. Rather than using as a spatial null hypothesis the unrealistic assumption of complete spatial randomness, we propose spatially autocorrelated simulations as alternative nulls. We conduct a set of crowdsourced experiments (n = 361) to determine the just noticeable difference (JND) between pairs of choropleth maps of geographic units controlling for spatial autocorrelation (Moran’s I statistic) and geometric configuration (variance in spatial unit area). Results indicate that people’s abilities to perceive differences in spatial autocorrelation vary with baseline autocorrelation structure and the geometric configuration of geographic units. These results allow us, for the first time, to construct a visual equivalent of statistical power for geospatial data. Our JND results add to those provided in recent years by Klippel et al. (2011), Harrison et al. (2014) and Kay & Heer (2015) for correlation visualization. Importantly, they provide an empirical basis for an improved construction of visual line-ups for maps and the development of theory to inform geospatial tests of graphical inference.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2017 IEEE. Personal use of this material is permitted. Permission from IEEE must be obtained for all other uses, in any current or future media, including reprinting/republishing this material for advertising or promotional purposes, creating new collective works, for resale or redistribution to servers or lists, or reuse of any copyrighted component of this work in other works.
Publisher Keywords: Graphical inference, spatial autocorrelation, just noticeable difference, geovisualization, statistical significance
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GA Mathematical geography. Cartography
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Computer Science
School of Science & Technology > Computer Science > giCentre
SWORD Depositor:
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