Perceiving Relationships: A Physiological Examination of the Perception of Scatterplots

  • Lisa A. Best
  • Aren C. Hunter
  • Brandie M. Stewart
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4045)


Researchers in all areas of science recognize the value of graphical displays and research on graphs has focused on determining which graphical elements enhance readability. To date, no research has examined the physiological processing of graphs. The purpose of this project was to examine the event-related potentials (ERPs) associated with the processing of bivariate scatterplots. Participants viewed scatterplots depicting different linear relationships (positive and negative; strong and weak) and their ERPs were analyzed. Results indicate interesting differences in how scatterplots are processed. Overall, there was differential processing in posterior, medial, and anterior brain sites. Sites on the left and right sides of the brain showed different patterns of activity in response to the scatterplots. In addition, results suggest that different relationships are processed differently in the brain (confirming previous research that has suggested that the perception of covariation is dependent upon the type of relationship depicted on a scatterplot).


Stimulus Onset Graphical Display Brain Site Posterior Site Anterior Site 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa A. Best
    • 1
  • Aren C. Hunter
    • 1
  • Brandie M. Stewart
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New BrunswickSaint JohnCanada

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