GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 230-9
Presentation Time: 4:05 PM


COURTNEY, Stephanie L., Department of Geosciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36832 and MCNEAL, Karen S., Department of Geosciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849

Reducing harm from climate change will require mass participation and therefore mass education. Graphs are used to communicate climate data with broad audiences in publications, the media, and education. Previous graph comprehension research is enriched by consideration of specific topic areas, like climate change, and new methods such as usability evaluation and eye-tracking technology. Usability is assessed by measuring the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction of the participant while completing a task with a given tool. Usability evaluation can be enhanced by the use of eye-tracking technology, which provides more precise data about task performance and attention to different features of the graphs. In this research, we have evaluated the usability of three IPCC AR5 graphs and compared them to re-designed versions of the same graphs based on recommendations from cognitive science research and user testing. Participants were undergraduate students in the southeastern US with pre-measured low risk perception and knowledge of climate change, representing an important audience for climate change communication. Each graph was assessed with undergraduate students’ eye-tracking data, performance on data extraction questions, and participant perceptions of usability and credibility. Graph design significantly impacted each of these measures, and accompanying qualitative data lends insight into students’ understanding and trust of scientific graphics. Further, just completing the graph activity increased participants perceptions of climate change risk and climate scientists’ credibility and consensus. These results may be useful for future climate change communication efforts including the current preparation of the IPCC’s AR6.