How Do People Process Different Representations of Statistical Information? : Insights into Cognitive Effort, Representational Inconsistencies, and Individual Differences

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2023
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Medical Decision Making. Sage. 2023, 43(7-8), pp. 803-820. ISSN 0272-989X. eISSN 1552-681X. Available under: doi: 10.1177/0272989x231202505
Zusammenfassung

Background
Graphical representation formats (e.g., icon arrays) have been shown to lead to better understanding of the benefits and risks of treatments compared to numbers. We investigate the cognitive processes underlying the effects of format on understanding: how much cognitive effort is required to process numerical and graphical representations, how people process inconsistent representations, and how numeracy and graph literacy affect information processing.

Methods
In a preregistered between-participants experiment, 665 participants answered questions about the relative frequencies of benefits and side effects of 6 medications. First, we manipulated whether the medical information was represented numerically, graphically (as icon arrays), or inconsistently (numerically for 3 medications and graphically for the other 3). Second, to examine cognitive effort, we manipulated whether there was time pressure or not. In an additional intervention condition, participants translated graphical information into numerical information before answering questions. We also assessed numeracy and graph literacy.

Results
Processing icon arrays was more strongly affected by time pressure than processing numbers, suggesting that graphical formats required more cognitive effort. Understanding was lower when information was represented inconsistently (v. consistently) but not if there was a preceding intervention. Decisions based on inconsistent representations were biased toward graphically represented options. People with higher numeracy processed quantitative information more efficiently than people with lower numeracy did. Graph literacy was not related to processing efficiency.

Limitations
Our study was conducted with a nonpatient sample, and the medical information was hypothetical.

Conclusions
Although graphical (v. numerical) formats have previously been found to lead to better understanding, they may require more cognitive effort. Therefore, the goal of risk communication may play an important role when choosing how to communicate medical information.

Zusammenfassung in einer weiteren Sprache
Fachgebiet (DDC)
150 Psychologie
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cognitive effort, decision aids, graph literacy, icon arrays, numeracy, risk communication
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ISO 690TIEDE, Kevin Erik, Wolfgang GAISSMAIER, 2023. How Do People Process Different Representations of Statistical Information? : Insights into Cognitive Effort, Representational Inconsistencies, and Individual Differences. In: Medical Decision Making. Sage. 2023, 43(7-8), pp. 803-820. ISSN 0272-989X. eISSN 1552-681X. Available under: doi: 10.1177/0272989x231202505
BibTex
@article{Tiede2023-10Peopl-67961,
  year={2023},
  doi={10.1177/0272989x231202505},
  title={How Do People Process Different Representations of Statistical Information? : Insights into Cognitive Effort, Representational Inconsistencies, and Individual Differences},
  number={7-8},
  volume={43},
  issn={0272-989X},
  journal={Medical Decision Making},
  pages={803--820},
  author={Tiede, Kevin Erik and Gaissmaier, Wolfgang}
}
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    <dcterms:abstract>Background&lt;br /&gt;
Graphical representation formats (e.g., icon arrays) have been shown to lead to better understanding of the benefits and risks of treatments compared to numbers. We investigate the cognitive processes underlying the effects of format on understanding: how much cognitive effort is required to process numerical and graphical representations, how people process inconsistent representations, and how numeracy and graph literacy affect information processing.

Methods&lt;br /&gt;
In a preregistered between-participants experiment, 665 participants answered questions about the relative frequencies of benefits and side effects of 6 medications. First, we manipulated whether the medical information was represented numerically, graphically (as icon arrays), or inconsistently (numerically for 3 medications and graphically for the other 3). Second, to examine cognitive effort, we manipulated whether there was time pressure or not. In an additional intervention condition, participants translated graphical information into numerical information before answering questions. We also assessed numeracy and graph literacy.

Results&lt;br /&gt;
Processing icon arrays was more strongly affected by time pressure than processing numbers, suggesting that graphical formats required more cognitive effort. Understanding was lower when information was represented inconsistently (v. consistently) but not if there was a preceding intervention. Decisions based on inconsistent representations were biased toward graphically represented options. People with higher numeracy processed quantitative information more efficiently than people with lower numeracy did. Graph literacy was not related to processing efficiency.

Limitations&lt;br /&gt;
Our study was conducted with a nonpatient sample, and the medical information was hypothetical.

Conclusions&lt;br /&gt;
Although graphical (v. numerical) formats have previously been found to lead to better understanding, they may require more cognitive effort. Therefore, the goal of risk communication may play an important role when choosing how to communicate medical information.</dcterms:abstract>
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