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Visualization is often seen as a tool to support complex thinking. Although different people can have very different ways of approaching the kind of complex task that visualizations support, as researchers and designers we still rarely consider individual differences in creating and evaluating visualizations. This article reviews recent research on individual differences in visualization and human-computer interaction, showing that both cognitive abilities and personality profiles might significantly affect performance with these tools. The study of individual differences has led to the conclusion that advances in this important area in visualization will require more focused research. Specifically, we must isolate the cognitive factors that are relevant to visualization and the design factors that make one visualization more suited to a user than another. In doing so, we could increase our understanding of the visualization user and reshape how we approach design and evaluation.
Date of Publication: Nov.-Dec. 2012