Trend judgment as a perceptual building block of graphicacy and mathematics, across age, education, and culture

Scientific Reports(2023)

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Data plots are widely used in science, journalism and politics, since they efficiently allow to depict a large amount of information. Graphicacy, the ability to understand graphs, has thus become a fundamental cultural skill comparable to literacy or numeracy. Here, we introduce a measure of intuitive graphicacy that assesses the perceptual ability to detect a trend in noisy scatterplots (“does this graph go up or down?”). In 3943 educated participants, responses vary as a sigmoid function of the t -value that a statistician would compute to detect a significant trend. We find a minimum level of core intuitive graphicacy even in unschooled participants living in remote Namibian villages (N = 87) and 6-year-old 1st-graders who never read a graph (N = 27). The sigmoid slope that we propose as a proxy of intuitive graphicacy increases with education and tightly correlates with statistical and mathematical knowledge, showing that experience contributes to refining graphical intuitions. Our tool, publicly available online, allows to quickly evaluate and formally quantify a perceptual building block of graphicacy.
graphicacy,trend judgment,mathematics,education
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