New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



PROCEEDINGS OF THE ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2015 (forthcoming 2015)


In this paper, we present an empirical analysis of deceptive visualizations. We start with an in-depth analysis of what deception means in the context of data visualization, and categorize deceptive visualizations based on the type of deception they lead to. We identify popular distortion techniques and the type of visualizations those distortions can be applied to, and formalize why deception occurs with those distortions. We create four deceptive visualizations using the selected distortion techniques, and run a crowdsourced user study to identify the deceptiveness of those visualizations. We then present the findings of our study and show how deceptive each of these visual distortion techniques are, and for what kind of questions the misinterpretation occurs. We also analyze individual differences among participants and present the effect of some of those variables on participants’ responses. This paper presents a first step in empirically studying deceptive visualizations, and will pave the way for more research in this direction.

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