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The Influence of Multivariable Data Displays on Problem Solving: An Analog of Resource Allocation
AuthorLuke, Molli M.
AdvisorAlavosius, Mark P.
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There is an emphasis on evidence-based policies and practices across the majority of disciplines, such as, medicine, education and development of social policies (Packwood, 2002). Multivariate data displays serve as a way to enable evidence-based decisions in the context of complex, interrelated variables. They describe complex events and make relations along various dimensions more salient (Tufte, 1983, 1990). There is value to understanding how multivariate data displays not only influence a person's ability to describe the patterns in data, but also how a person generalizes those patterns to solve problems in novel situations. Two studies that evaluated how communication of multivariate data sets on problem solving were conducted. The first study evaluated the influence of two data displays (line graphs and textual table) on accurate and efficient problem solving using a scenario-based analog design. Results showed no consistent different in problem solving with one data display over another. With several methodological changes, the second study further evaluated the effects of data displays as well as the effect of strategic instructions on the accuracy of problem solving. Results indicated that with strategic instructions and line graphs, participants had more accurate predictions of future trends in the data. In the presence of tables, accuracy was lower, even after strategic instructions. Implications and future research on effective communication using data displays is discussed.