Skip to main content

Assessing the Effect of Visualizations on Bayesian Reasoning through Crowdsourcing

Micallef, Luana, Dragicevic, Pierre, Fekete, Jean-Daniel (2012) Assessing the Effect of Visualizations on Bayesian Reasoning through Crowdsourcing. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (Proceedings Scientific Visualization / Information Visualization 2012), 18 (12). pp. 2536-2545. (doi:10.1109/TVCG.2012.199)


People have difficulty understanding statistical information and are unaware of their wrong judgments, particularly in Bayesian reasoning. Psychology studies suggest that the way Bayesian problems are represented can impact comprehension, but few visual designs have been evaluated and only populations with a specific background have been involved. In this study, a textual and six visual representations for three classic problems were compared using a diverse subject pool through crowdsourcing. Visualizations included area-proportional Euler diagrams, glyph representations, and hybrid diagrams combining both. Our study failed to replicate previous findings in that subjects' accuracy was remarkably lower and visualizations exhibited no measurable benefit. A second experiment confirmed that simply adding a visualization to a textual Bayesian problem is of little help, even when the text refers to the visualization, but suggests that visualizations are more effective when the text is given without numerical values. We discuss our findings and the need for more such experiments to be carried out on heterogeneous populations of non-experts.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1109/TVCG.2012.199
Additional information: Received a Best Paper Honorable Mention Award at IEEE VisWeek 2012.
Uncontrolled keywords: Bayesian reasoning, base rate fallacy, probabilistic judgment, Euler diagrams, glyphs, crowdsourcing
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics (inc Computing science) > QA 76 Software, computer programming,
Divisions: Faculties > Sciences > School of Computing > Computational Intelligence Group
Depositing User: L. Micallef
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2012 09:49 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 09:21 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year