Vistrust: a Multidimensional Framework and Empirical Study of Trust in Data Visualizations

Vistrust: a Multidimensional Framework and Empirical Study of Trust in Data Visualizations

Elhamdadi H, Stefkovics A, Beyer J, Moerth E, Pfister H, Xiong Bearfield C, and Nobre C.

IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (Proceedings IEEE Visualization 2023), 2023.

Trust is an essential aspect of data visualization, as it plays a crucial role in the interpretation and decision-making processes of users. While research in social sciences outlines the multi-dimensional factors that can play a role in trust formation, most data visualization trust researchers employ a single-item scale to measure trust. We address this gap by proposing a comprehensive, multidimensional conceptualization and operationalization of trust in visualization. We do this by applying general theories of trust from social sciences, as well as synthesizing and extending earlier work and factors identified by studies in the visualization field. We apply a two-dimensional approach to trust in visualization, to distinguish between cognitive and affective elements, as well as between visualization and data-specific trust antecedents. We use our framework to design and run a large crowd-sourced study to quantify the role of visual complexity in establishing trust in science visualizations. Our study provides empirical evidence for several aspects of our proposed theoretical framework, most notably the impact of cognition, affective responses, and individual differences when establishing trust in visualizations.


The authors wish to thank Barbara Kulaga for her role in developing the visualizations, and Bo Yun Park for her role in the original conception of the “trust in science" experiment. This work was supported by the Harvard Data Science Initiative Trust in Science Fund, supported by Bayer, and partly funded by NSF awards IIS-1901030 and IIS-2237585.