Taste of Research Series List 8: Visual Analysis

In the Taste of Research Series: List 7 I mentioned the article “Accuracy and efficiency of data interpretation: A comparison of data display methods” (Lefebre et al., 2008). It is one of the articles I found a few years ago when I was researching accuracy of visual analysis. As you may know, behavior analysts are, by training, analysts of visually presented data, often displayed on time-series graphs or charts. When I started to use standard celeration charts, my interests started to broaden. I had been quite interested in how in data collection methods impact decision making for years, (and have been presenting on that topic since 2016), but I started to wonder more about how visual analysis impacts decision making. For example, one may have a reliable method of collecting data, but the way the data are displayed prevents a visual analyst from making accurate interpretations of how an individual is performing.

What is so important about visual analysis?

If you use graphs to plot data from treatments, interventions, or instruction then you should be using that graph to inform yourself and others about when to make changes when things are not working or when to begin fading the intensity of your intervention, or when to move on to a more advanced step. If you are not fluent in visual analysis or the way you are displaying your data impacts your ability to make sound judgements, then you are doing your clients and/or students a disservice and may actual do more harm than good.

It there really that much to visual analysis?

If you ever asked yourself the questions “Equal interval vs Semi-log graphs?” “Does it make sense to have sessions on the X-axis of a time series graph?” or even “How can I train my front-line staff to conduct visual analyses? then you know there is more to visual analysis than just looking for inclines, declines, or plateaus. There are great papers out there to start answering your questions and get you seriously thinking about visual analysis. Here are just a few that I recommend.

At date of this blog entry publication the following was available through ResearchGate

Kipfmiller, K.J., Brodhead, M.T., Wolfe, K., LaLonde, K., Sipila, E.S., Bak, M.Y.S, & Fisher, M.H. (2019). Training front-line employees to conduct visual analysis using a clinical decision-making model. Journal of Behavioral Education, 28, 301–322. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10864-018-09318-1

At date of this blog entry publication, the following was available on the Central Reach Website

Kubina Jr., R.M., Kostewicz, D.E., Brennan, K.M., & King, S.A. (2015). A critical review of line graphs in behavior analytic journals. Educational Psychology Review, 29, 583-598. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-015-9339-x

The following is available on celeration.org

Lefebre, E., Fabrizio, M., & Merbitz, C. (2008). Accuracy and efficiency of data interpretation: A comparison of data display methods. Journal of Precision Teaching and Celeration, 24(1), 2-20.