Evaluating Free Rides and Observational Advantages in Set Visualizations

Andrew Blake, Gem Stapleton, Peter Rodgers, Anestis Touloumis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Free rides and observational advantages occur in visualizations when they reveal facts that must be inferred from an alternative representation. Understanding whether these concepts correspond to cognitive advantages is important: do they facilitate information extraction, saving the `deductive cost' of making inferences? This paper presents the first evaluations of free rides and observational advantages in visualizations of sets compared to text. We found that, for Euler and linear diagrams, free rides and observational advantages yielded significant improvements in task performance. For Venn diagrams, whilst their observational advantages yielded significant performance benefits over text, this was not universally true for free rides. The consequences are two-fold: more research is needed to establish when free rides are beneficial, and the results suggest that observational advantages better explain the cognitive advantages of diagrams over text. A take-away message is that visualizations with observational advantages are likely to be cognitively advantageous over competing representations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)557-600
    Number of pages44
    JournalJournal of Logic, Language and Information
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2021

    Bibliographical note

    This research was partially funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant RPG-2016-082 for the project entitled Accessible Reasoning with Diagrams.

    This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.


    • Euler diagrams
    • Free rides
    • Linear diagrams
    • Observational advantages
    • Venn diagrams


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