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Tuesday, January 15

Seeing Through (or in spite of) Attention: How Attention Shapes What We Do and Don't See in Maps and Other Information Graphics

Amy Griffin, University of New South Wales , Sydney, Australia
Geographic Information Science and Technology Group Seminar
1:30 PM — 2:30 PM, Research Office Building (ROB), Building 5700, Room L-205
Contact: Amy Rose (, 865.576.3561


Visual attention refers to the act of focusing on some features of the visual environment while ignoring others. Attention is an adaptation that is critical to any species' survival: it is simply not possible to process all potential stimuli to which we are exposed, so we focus on some at the expense of others. For example, our attention is easily captured by motion, probably because early in the history of our species it conferred advantages in our dual roles as both predator and prey, helping us to find things to eat as well as remain uneaten ourselves. However, motion is not the only type of visual input that captures our attention. And, attention is not only influenced by the visual properties of the environment, but also by the task we are trying to accomplish in that environment. In this talk, I provide an overview of some of the ways that attention is important to the reading and use of maps, using a couple of examples from experimental work to highlight why it is so important for visualization designers to understand and know about the effects of attention on how users read maps and other information graphics.