Sunday, January 31, 2016

Research on persuasive visualization and risk communication

A while ago a group of researchers (Enrico Bertini among them) published a paper titled “The Persuasive Power of Data Visualization”. I've been interested in how to make information graphics convincing since I read this New York Times story, but I somehow assumed that research about the topic was limited and sparse. I was wrong.

Yesterday I met with one of our PhD candidates at the School of Communication of the University of Miami. Her name is Fan Yang. She's interested in the communication of risk, and in how charts, maps, and infographics can lead to behavioral change.

Fan shared more than twenty papers she is planning to quote in her dissertation. I've read none of these yet, but I'm planning to do so as soon as I find the time:

• “Foreground:background salience: Explaining the effects of graphical displays on risk avoidance” (full article)

• “The Visual Communication of Risk” (full article)

• “Effects of Numerical and Graphical Displays on Professed Risk-Taking Behavior” (abstract)

• “Design Features of Graphs in Health Risk Communication: A Systematic Review” (abstract)

• “Influence of Framing and Graphic Format on Comprehension of Risk Information among American Indian Tribal College Students” (full article)

 “A content analysis of visual cancer information: prevalence and use of photographs and illustrations in printed health materials” (abstract)

 “The Effect of Format on Parents' Understanding of the Risks and Benefits of Clinical Research: A Comparison Between Text, Tables, and Graphics” (full article)

 “The Effect of Alternative Graphical Displays Used to Present the Benefits of Antibiotics for Sore Throat on Decisions about Whether to Seek Treatment: A Randomized Trial” (full article)

• “Men’s interpretations of graphical information in a videotape decision aid” (abstract)

• “The impact of the format of graphical presentation on health-related knowledge and treatment choices” (abstract)

• “Numeric, Verbal, and Visual Formats of Conveying Health Risks: Suggested Best Practices and Future Recommendations” (full article)

• “The Greater Ability of Graphical Versus Numerical Displays to Increase Risk Avoidance Involves a Common Mechanism” (abstract)

• “The Influence of Graphic Format on Breast Cancer Risk Communication” (abstract)

• “Perceived Visual Informativeness (PVI): Construct and Scale Development to Assess Visual Information in Printed Materials” (abstract)

• “Understanding the Positive Effects of Graphical Risk Information on Comprehension: Measuring Attention Directed to Written, Tabular, and Graphical Risk Information” (abstract)

• “Reducing the Influence of Anecdotal Reasoning on People’s Health Care Decisions: Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Statistics?” (abstract)

• “Alternate Methods of Framing Information About Medication Side Effects: Incremental Risk Versus Total Risk of Occurrence” (abstract)

• “Risk communication formats for low probability events: an exploratory study of patient preferences” (full article)

• “The effect of an illustrated pamphlet decision-aid on the use of prostate cancer screening tests” (abstract)

• “Who profits from visual aids: Overcoming challenges in people’s understanding of risks” (abstract)

• “Risk Comprehension and Judgments of Statistical Evidentiary Appeals. When a Picture is Not Worth a Thousand Words” (abstract)

• “Frequency or Probability? A Qualitative Study of Risk Communication Formats Used in Health Care” (abstract)

• “Helping Patients Decide: Ten Steps to Better Risk Communication” (abstract)

• “Identifying patient preferences for communicating risk estimates: A descriptive pilot study” (full article)


  1. Great list! I read a number of these as a phd student since one of my mentors, Priti Shah, was a cognitive psychologist who worked in graph comprehension. Another of my favorites is here:
    Enrico and I also chatted about some of this when I was on DataStories. Understanding what changes when we process information in graphical formats is pretty fundamental to InfoVis, imho. So it amazes me sometimes to realize how few people in the field know about all of this work.

  2. Cool papers here! It is also my field of research for my Ph.D., more on a socio-psychological standpoint. It's a broad and very interesting subject; it has to be more exploited to change behaviors!

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