How Can Spatial Arrangement in Tables Improve Readers’ Cognitive Processing?

Anne Pellegrin and Mireille Bétrancourt

The research reported in this paper deals with the cognitive theories of graphical representations. Two experiments were carried out to investigate the production and comprehension of a neglected type of graphical representations: tables. The first experiment aimed at assessing whether the way people arrange pieces of information in table depended on the type of semantic relation they convey. Two relations were used: implication and genealogy. In a second experiment, we compared two arrangements of information in tables and their effect on a description task. The same relations as those used in the first experiment were presented: implication and genealogy. The results of these two experiments showed that the optimal arrangement of elements in tables was dependent on the relation: in the first task, participants tended to plot horizontally elements that were linked by an implication relation, and vertically elements that were linked by a genealogy relation. In the second task, the horizontal arrangement for implication and the vertical arrangement for genealogy improve readers’ processing of the information

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