A Psychophysical Investigation of Size as a Physical Variable


Physical visualizations, or knowledge physicalizations, encode knowledge in attributes of physical shapes. Despite a substantial body of labor on visual variables, “physical variables” stay poorly understood. One of them is physical size. A issue for solid elements is that “size” is ambiguous – it will talk to either length/diameter, surface, or volume. Therefore, it is unclear for designers of physicalizations the way to effectively encode quantities in physical size. To research, we have a tendency to ran an experiment where participants estimated ratios between quantities represented by solid bars and spheres. Our results recommend that solid bars are compared primarily based on their length, according to previous findings for 2D and 3D bars on flat media. However for spheres, participants' estimates are rather proportional to their surface. Depending on the estimation method used, judgments are rather consistent across participants, thus the use of perceptually-optimized size scales seems potential. We tend to conclude by discussing implications for the look of knowledge physicalizations and the necessity for additional empirical studies on physical variables.

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