Skip to Main Content
Existing research suggests that individual personality differences are correlated with a user's speed and accuracy in solving problems with different types of complex visualization systems. We extend this research by isolating factors in personality traits as well as in the visualizations that could have contributed to the observed correlation. We focus on a personality trait known as "locus of control” (LOC), which represents a person's tendency to see themselves as controlled by or in control of external events. To isolate variables of the visualization design, we control extraneous factors such as color, interaction, and labeling. We conduct a user study with four visualizations that gradually shift from a list metaphor to a containment metaphor and compare the participants' speed, accuracy, and preference with their locus of control and other personality factors. Our findings demonstrate that there is indeed a correlation between the two: participants with an internal locus of control perform more poorly with visualizations that employ a containment metaphor, while those with an external locus of control perform well with such visualizations. These results provide evidence for the externalization theory of visualization. Finally, we propose applications of these findings to adaptive visual analytics and visualization evaluation.