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Cogn Process. 2011 Feb;12(1):43-52. doi: 10.1007/s10339-010-0379-3. Epub 2010 Nov 17.

Visualizing space, time, and agents: production, performance, and preference.

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Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Visualizations of space, time, and agents (or objects) are ubiquitous in science, business, and everyday life, from weather maps to scheduling meetings. Effective communications, including visual ones, emerge from use in the field, but no conventional visualization form has yet emerged for this confluence of information. The real-world spiral of production, comprehension, and use that fine-tunes communications can be accelerated in the laboratory. Here, we do so in search of effective visualizations of space, time, and agents. Users' production, preference, and performance aligned to favor matrix representations with time as rows or columns and space and agents as entries. Overall, performance and preference were greater for matrices with discrete dots representing cell entries than for matrices with lines, but lines connecting cells may provide an advantage when evaluating temporal sequence. Both the diagram type and the technique have broader applications.

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