A Mental Models Perspective on Designing Information Visualizations for Political Communication

Guenther Schreder, Florian Windhager, Michael Smuc, Eva Mayr


Information visualizations (InfoVis) in the context of political communication are designed to convey a broad understanding of socio-political data and their multitude of intricately connected variables to the public. A cognitive framework to explain and empirically study how users acquire and organize their internal representations gained from InfoVis systems with multiple perspectives is still missing. In this paper we discuss the theory of mental models and its consequences for the design and research of InfoVis interfaces. Especially for multidimensional data, it is a challenge to design accessible and conceptually consistent InfoVis interfaces to support the local and global coherence of the recipients’ mental models. In this paper we exemplarily show how specific design features, i.e. advance organizers, narrative visualizations, seamless transitions, and multiple coordinated views can accomplish this in the field of political communication and its complex data.


Information visualization; political communication; multidimensional data; mental models; cognition support; sense making

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.29379/jedem.v8i3.443


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