Why We Study Interactive Pictographs

Psychology research has long demonstrated that people often learn better when information is presented in multiple ways that reinforce each other. Thus, information presented both verbally and visually is usually retained better than information presented using either mode by itself. In addition, education studies have shown that understanding of complex concepts is substantially improved when students must actively process and use information, as compared to more passive learning approaches.

Our conception of an “interactive pictograph” is built upon the same research foundation. These Flash-based widgets are designed to tap into multiple learning styles by encouraging the user to actively think about a risk statistic and think about its implications for decision making. Interactive pictographs can be used to improve visualization of single health risks, to clarify the benefit of a treatment, or to compare two different risks side-by-side. Such active processing, we hope, may confer advantages over more static visual presentation, even if those presentations use optimal graphical formats such as pictographs (icon arrays). Our current research seeks to empirically test this hypotheses using randomized controlled trial (RCT) survey experiments.

On the next page is an example of how interactive pictographs might be incorporated into an online presentation of the side effects of a particular therapy. In this case, the patient or subject is being asked to compare two different radiotherapy options: seed therapy and beam therapy.

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