Task-dependent processing of tables and graphs

Talya Porat, Tal Oron-Gilad, Joachim Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In two experiments participants had to detect changes in periodic sinusoidal functions, displayed in either graphic or tabular displays. Graphs had a major advantage over tables when the task required considering configurations of data. Both displays led to similar results when task performance could rely on inspecting individual data points. With graphs almost all participants reported using the optimal method for detecting changes in the function, i.e., they used the method requiring the least effort to perform the task. With tables only about half used the optimal detection method, and these participants showed transfer of learning of detection methods between tasks. Experience in using a detection method led to improved performance if the new task relied on the same method of detection. These findings demonstrate the need to consider task performance methods when determining the relative value of different displays. The set of tasks for which a display is used is likely to affect performance and needs to be analysed as a whole, since methods employed for one task can affect task performance in other tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-307
Number of pages15
JournalBehaviour and Information Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Graphic displays
  • Performance strategies
  • Signal detection
  • Tables


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