“It’s Just a Graph”

The Effect of Post-Hoc Rationalisation on InfoVis Evaluation

Creativity & Cognition 2021 - Honorable Mention

A growing body of work in InfoVis explores its user experience (UX), however, emotions remain underexplored. Our study reveals barriers for investigating personal connection and emotional reaction to visualisations. This provides an explanation for why the role of emotions so far received little attention in InfoVis. Twenty-four participants viewed two traditional data visualisations, answered UX questionnaires for each, and were interviewed about their experience. Our findings show that traditional visualisations are seen as ‘just a graph’, that represents neutral information. Participants referred to aesthetics, legibility, and usability, instead of the actual topic. Moreover, to make sense of the data, emotions have to be separated from it. We found four possible explanations underlying this belief and argue that a form of post-hoc rationalisation takes place, which obscures people’s initial connections and affective responses to visualisations. Based on these findings, we discuss implications for future research on the UX of visualisations.

  • Rosa van Koningsbruggen and Eva Hornecker. 2021. “It’s Just a Graph” – The Efect of Post-Hoc Rationalisation on InfoVis Evaluation. In Creativity and Cognition (C&C ’21), June 22–23, 2021, Virtual Event, Italy. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 10 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3450741.3465257