When One Shape Does Not Fit All: A Commentary Essay on the Use of Graphs in Psychological Research.
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The interest of psychology in graphs is anything but new. It was 1972 when John Wilder Tukey, one of the fathers of the statistic of the XX century, distinguished among three categories of graphs: (1) propaganda graphs, that are intended to show what already can be learned using data-analysis and inferential testing, (2) analytical graphs, that allow to understand data over and above what inferential statistic has already shown, and (3) the substitute for tables, that are graphs from which numbers are to be read off (Tukey, 1977). From this classification it appears evident Tukey's recommendation for analytical graphs. Twenty years later, Leland Wilkinson and the Task Force on Statistical Inference of the American Psychological Association, similarly posited: “Before you compute any statistics, look at your data. (…) If you assess hypotheses without examining your data, you risk publishing nonsense” (Wilkinson and Task Force on Statistical Inference, 1999). Nowadays, visual inspection continuous to be largely recommended for understanding data set's meaning in exploratory data analysis, and is considered more useful than a solely strictly adherence to statistical testing to answer questions prompted by the experiment (Wixted and Pashler, 2002; Marmolejo-Ramos and Matsunaga, 2009). Also student's books and papers addressing mechanisms underpinning statistical reasoning have introduced a shift of perspective from drawing graphs to using graphs for making sense of data and evaluating hypotheses (Moore, 1998; Wild and Pfannkuch, 1999; Konold and Pollatsek, 2002; Bakker, 2004; Bakker and Gravemeijer, 2004; Pfannkuch, 2005; Watson, 2005; Garfield and Ben-Zvi, 2008; Matejka and Fitzmaurice, 2017). However, as we review below, a vast majority of research papers continue to adopt non optimal graphical representations. Also, though graphs could make data transparent, increasing the reliability of research findings (Tay et al., 2016), among guidelines proposed for promoting transparency in research (Nosek et al., 2015), no specific reference is made upon the relevance of adequate graphical representations.
AuthorsPastore, M; Lionetti, F; Altoè, G
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