Correlation judgment and visualization features: A comparative study

Fumeng Yang*, Lane T. Harrison, Ronald A. Rensink, Steven L. Franconeri, Remco Chang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Recent visualization research efforts have incorporated experimental techniques and perceptual models from the vision science community. Perceptual laws such as Weber's law, for example, have been used to model the perception of correlation in scatterplots. While this thread of research has progressively refined the modeling of the perception of correlation in scatterplots, it remains unclear as to why such perception can be modeled using relatively simple functions, e.g., linear and log-linear. In this paper, we investigate a longstanding hypothesis that people use visual features in a chart as a proxy for statistical measures like correlation. For a given scatterplot, we extract 49 candidate visual features and evaluate which best align with existing models and participant judgments. The results support the hypothesis that people attend to a small number of visual features when discriminating correlation in scatterplots. We discuss how this result may account for prior conflicting findings, and how visual features provide a baseline for future model-based approaches in visualization evaluation and design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8305493
Pages (from-to)1474-1488
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Information visualization
  • Weber's law
  • evaluation/methodology
  • perception and psychophysics
  • power law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design

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