Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST), 2011 IEEE Conference on


Existing research suggests that individual personality differences are correlated with a user’s speed and accuracy in solving problems with different types of complex visualization systems. In this pa- per, we extend this research by isolating factors in personality traits as well as in the visualizations that could have contributed to the observed correlation. We focus on a personality trait known as “lo- cus of control,” which represents a person’s tendency to see them- selves as controlled by or in control of external events. To isolate variables of the visualization design, we control extraneous factors such as color, interaction, and labeling, and specifically focus on the overall layout style of the visualizations. We conduct a user study with four visualizations that gradually shift from an indentation metaphor to a containment metaphor and compare the participants’ speed, accuracy, and preference with their locus of control. Our findings demonstrate that there is indeed a correlation between the two: participants with an internal locus of control per- form more poorly with visualizations that employ a containment metaphor, while those with an external locus of control perform well with such visualizations. We discuss a possible explanation for this relationship based in cognitive psychology and propose that these results can be used to better understand how people use visualizations and how to adapt visual analytics design to an individual user’s needs.


© the authors


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.



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