Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 523–552 | Cite as

Expertise Differences in the Comprehension of Visualizations: a Meta-Analysis of Eye-Tracking Research in Professional Domains

  • Andreas GegenfurtnerEmail author
  • Erno Lehtinen
  • Roger Säljö


This meta-analysis integrates 296 effect sizes reported in eye-tracking research on expertise differences in the comprehension of visualizations. Three theories were evaluated: Ericsson and Kintsch’s (Psychol Rev 102:211–245, 1995) theory of long-term working memory, Haider and Frensch’s (J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cognit 25:172–190, 1999) information-reduction hypothesis, and the holistic model of image perception of Kundel et al. (Radiology 242:396–402, 2007). Eye movement and performance data were cumulated from 819 experts, 187 intermediates, and 893 novices. In support of the evaluated theories, experts, when compared with non-experts, had shorter fixation durations, more fixations on task-relevant areas, and fewer fixations on task-redundant areas; experts also had longer saccades and shorter times to first fixate relevant information, owing to superiority in parafoveal processing and selective attention allocation. Eye movements, reaction time, and performance accuracy were moderated by characteristics of visualization (dynamics, realism, dimensionality, modality, and text annotation), task (complexity, time-on-task, and task control), and domain (sports, medicine, transportation, other). These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for theories of visual expertise in professional domains and their significance for the design of learning environments.


Eye tracking Expertise Graphics comprehension Long-term working memory Information reduction Parafoveal processing Meta-analysis 



This research was supported in part by grants from the Academy of Finland and from the Doctoral Program for Multidisciplinary Research on Learning Environments (OPMON).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Gegenfurtner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Erno Lehtinen
    • 1
  • Roger Säljö
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Learning Research and Department of Teacher EducationUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Department of Education, Communication, and LearningUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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