I am studying the role of visualisation in UX and how it helps users understand content in a easy and quicker way. Does someone know of any studies that support visualisations at a cognitive level?

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    Not specifically a study and not specifically infographics but Kevin Cheng wrote a book "See What I mean" which talks about the use of comics to communicate ideas. Also there is a video here wordpress.tv/2011/09/07/…
    – Chromarush
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 15:30

2 Answers 2


First picky point: Infographics aren't the same as visualisations. https://eagereyes.org/blog/2010/the-difference-between-infographics-and-visualization

The point of visualisation is to shift processing from the cognitive to the perceptual - i.e. don't think about it, just see it. There's hundreds of papers that compare different visualisations in user studies, generally such testing consisting of measuring and comparing task completion times and accuracy, with questionnaire-based tools as well to measure task load / ease etc (NASA-TLX etc). Bear in mind it's not always the case Vis A > Vis B, it also depends on the task being attempted. You just have to hit google scholar and if you find a review article all the better

As an example of a comparative study that uses NASA-TLX (no link to authors): Indented Tree or Graph? A Usability Study of Ontology Visualization Techniques in the Context of Class Mapping Evaluation http://web.stanford.edu/~natalya/papers/iswc2013_tree_graph.pdf

  • Thank you for the support. Good point on infographics vs visualisation, needed it!
    – HUGOC
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 14:09

It sounds like your question is two-fold. Here's my refinement: "What are best practices for data visualization to optimize for memorability and comprehension?"

In short, the two are at odds. Complexity and visual noise typically make data visualizations more memorable but less comprehensible. I've included a more thorough breakdown below.


  • Faces and human-centric scenes are typically easy to remember 1
  • Landscapes are not easy to remember 2
  • Incorporation of a human-recognizable object (eg. photograph, people, cartoons, logos) makes visualizations more memorable 3
  • Visual density improves memorability 3, 4

Memorability plotted against visual density rating

  • Unusual presentations improve memorability (eg. tree diagrams, network diagrams, grid matrices) 3, 4 Memorability plotted against visualization type

  • Charts with more colors are more memorable Memorability plotted against color rating

  • Visualizations are less memorable than natural scenes, but similar to images of faces, which may hint at generic, abstract, features of human memory 4

  • Visualizations with low data-to-ink ratios and high visual densities (i.e., more chart junk and “clutter”) were more memorable than minimal, “clean” visualizations 4
  • Unique visualization types (pictorial, grid/matrix, trees and networks, and diagrams) had significantly higher memorability scores than common graphs (circles, area, points, bars, and lines) 4


Additional reading

Data Visualization Best Practices 2013

Gestalt Psychology Principles

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