Individual Differences in Graph Literacy: Overcoming Denominator Neglect in Risk Comprehension

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


Graph literacy is an often neglected skill that influences decision making performance. We conducted an experiment to investigate whether individual differences in graph literacy affect the extent to which people benefit from visual aids (icon arrays) designed to reduce a common judgment bias (i.e., denominator neglect-a focus on numerators in ratios while neglecting denominators). Results indicated that icon arrays more often increased risk comprehension accuracy and confidence among participants with high graph literacy as compared with those with low graph literacy. Results held regardless of how the health message was framed (chances of dying versus chances of surviving). Findings contribute to our understanding of the ways in which individual differences in cognitive abilities interact with the comprehension of different risk representation formats. Theoretical, methodological, and prescriptive implications of the results are discussed (e.g., the effective communication of quantitative medical data).

Publication Title

Journal of Behavioral Decision Making