Visual routines for extracting magnitude relations

Audrey L. Michal, David Uttal, Priti Shah, Steven L. Franconeri

Research output: Contribution to journalOther Journal Articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Linking relations described in text with relations in visualizations is often difficult. We used eye tracking to measure the optimal way to extract such relations in graphs, college students, and young children (6- and 8-year-olds). Participants compared relational statements (“Are there more blueberries than oranges?”) with simple graphs, and two systematic patterns emerged: eye movements that followed the verbal order of the question (inspecting the “blueberry” value first) versus those that followed a left-first bias (regardless of the left value’s identity). Question-order patterns led substantially to faster responses and increased in prevalence with age, whereas the left-first pattern led to far slower responses and was the dominant strategy for younger children. We argue that the optimal way to verify a verbally expressed relation’s consistency with visualization is for the eyes to mimic the verbal ordering but that this strategy requires executive control and coordination with language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1802-1809
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


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