Patterns of Attention: How Data Visualizations Are Read

  • Laura E. MatzenEmail author
  • Michael J. Haass
  • Kristin M. Divis
  • Mallory C. Stites
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10284)


Data visualizations are used to communicate information to people in a wide variety of contexts, but few tools are available to help visualization designers evaluate the effectiveness of their designs. Visual saliency maps that predict which regions of an image are likely to draw the viewer’s attention could be a useful evaluation tool, but existing models of visual saliency often make poor predictions for abstract data visualizations. These models do not take into account the importance of features like text in visualizations, which may lead to inaccurate saliency maps. In this paper we use data from two eye tracking experiments to investigate attention to text in data visualizations. The data sets were collected under two different task conditions: a memory task and a free viewing task. Across both tasks, the text elements in the visualizations consistently drew attention, especially during early stages of viewing. These findings highlight the need to incorporate additional features into saliency models that will be applied to visualizations.


Data visualizations Text Eye tracking 



This work was funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program at Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under Contract DE-AC04-94AL85000.

The authors would like to thank Deborah Cronin and Jim Crowell for collecting the eye tracking data at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as Hank Kaczmarski and Camille Goudeseune for their support.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura E. Matzen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael J. Haass
    • 1
  • Kristin M. Divis
    • 1
  • Mallory C. Stites
    • 1
  1. 1.Sandia National LaboratoriesAlbuquerqueUSA

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