The VX Lab at NC State studies how visual technologies affect human emotion, thinking and behavior. Our interests span computer graphics, human-computer interfaces, visualization, psychology and design. We post news from both ourselves and others here.
Existing research suggests that individual personality differences are correlated with a user's efficiency in solving problems with complex visualization systems. We extend this research by isolating factors in personality traits as well as in the visualizations that may contribute to this correlation. We focus on a trait known as "locus of control," which represents a person's tendency to see themselves as controlled by or in control of external events. We control extraneous factors and focus on the overall layout style of the visualizations. We conduct a user study with four visualizations that gradually shift from an indentation metaphor to a containment metaphor and compare the participants' speed, accuracy, and preference with their locus of control. We then conduct a followup study in which we use priming to influence participants' locus of control rating. Our findings demonstrate that there is indeed a correlation between the two: participants with an internal locus of control perform more poorly with visualizations that employ a containment metaphor, while those with an external locus of control perform well with such visualizations. These results suggest that correspondence between a user's frame of mind and visualization style is important for successful design.