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Strategies for Detecting Difference in Map Line-up Tasks

Haider, J., Pohl, M., Beecham, R. & Dykes, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-8096-5763 (2021). Strategies for Detecting Difference in Map Line-up Tasks. In: INTERACT 2021: Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2021. INTERACT 2021, 30 Aug- 3 Sep 2021, Bari, Italy. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-85613-7_36


The line-up task hides a plot of real data amongst a line-up of decoys built around some plausible null hypothesis. It has been proposed as a mechanism for lending greater reliability and confidence to statistical inferences made from data graphics. The proposition is a seductive one, but whether or not line-ups guarantee consistent interpretation of statistical structure is an open question, especially when applied to representations of geo-spatial data. We build on empirical work around the extent to which statistical structure can be reliably judged in map line-ups, paying particular attention to the strategies employed when making line-up judgements. We conducted in-depth experiments with 19 graduate students equipped with a moderate background in geovisualization. The experiments consisted of a series of map line-up tasks with two map designs: choropleth maps and a centroid-dot alternative. We chose challenging tasks in the hope of exposing participants’ sensemaking activities. Through structured qualitative analysis of think-aloud protocols, we identify six sensemaking strategies and evaluate their effects in making judgements from map line-ups. We find five sensemaking strategies applicable to most visualization types, but one that seems particular to map line-up designs. We could not identify one single successful strategy, but users adopt a mix of different strategies, depending on the circumstances. We also found that choropleth maps were easier to use than centroid-dot maps.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: The final is available at Springer via
Publisher Keywords: Graphical inference, cognitive strategies, spatial autocorrelation, geovisualization ,visual perception, sensemaking, thinking-aloud
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 > giCentre
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