Bars and lines: A study of graphic communication

Jeff Zacks, Barbara Tversky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

200 Scopus citations


Interpretations of graphs seem to be rooted in principles of cognitive naturalness and information processing rather than arbitrary correspondences. These predict that people should more readily associate bars with discrete comparisons between data points because bars are discrete entities and facilitate point estimates. They should more readily associate lines with trends because lines connect discrete entities and directly represent slope. The predictions were supported in three experiments - two examining comprehension and one production. The correspondence does not seem to depend on explicit knowledge of rules. Instead, it may reflect the influence of the communicative situation as well as the perceptual properties of graphs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1073-1079
Number of pages7
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1999


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