Reading information graphics: The role of spatial contiguity and dual attentional guidance



In a naturalistic newspaper reading study, two pairs of information graphics have been designed to study the effects of (a) the spatial contiguity principle and (b) the dual scripting principle by means of eye tracking measurements. Our data clearly show that different spatial layouts have a significant effect on readers' eye movement behaviour. An integrated format with spatial contiguity between text and illustrations facilitates integration. Reading of information graphics is moreover significantly enhanced by a serial format, resulting from dual attentional guidance. The dual scripting principle is associated with a bottom-up guidance through the spatial layout of the presentation, suggesting a specific reading path, and with a top-down guidance through the conceptual pre-processing of the contents, facilitating information processing and semantic integration of the material. The integrated and serial formats not only attract readers' initial attention but also sustain the readers' interest, thereby promoting a longer and deeper processing of the complex material. The results are an important contribution to the study of the cognitive processes involved in text-picture integration and offer relevant insights about attentional guidance in printed media, computer-based instructional materials and textbook design. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.