Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Business and Economics

Department

Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Radhika Santhanam

Abstract

Information visualization (InfoViz) is an essential component of decision support systems (DSS). Sparklines is a visualization tool. This study examines if Sparklines in digital financial reports aids novice investors and if so under what circumstances? Does it enhances decision-making performance and facilitates effective decision-making experience? Additionally, does it lowers decision making effort; reduces dilution effect from non-relevant data in financial reports and mitigates recency bias in using digital financial reports?

The hypothesis is guided by the theory of Proximity Compatibility Principle and the Theory of Cognitive Fit. The research methodology for this study is a repeated measure, controlled laboratory based experiment. A pilot test was conducted in with a sample of forty undergraduate students from Gatton College of Business and Economics. The sample size for this study was 275 subjects.

The result revealed that there was significant effect of sparklines on decision making performance and it provides an incremental value over a tabular format. Sparklines makes an important contribution towards mitigating recency bias. The results also suggested that the irrelevant information cue in the shareholder’s report were not able to weaken the impact of relevant information in the audited financial data reported using sparklines. Sparklines increased the attention of the readers to the tables. Subjects performed the integrative tasks and spatial better when using Sparklines. For tasks such as symbolic tasks, Sparkline does not necessarily improve decision performance.

It was also found out that decision makers experience greater satisfaction when using sparklines. The overall cognitive load experienced by subjects was lower using sparklines when task demands are high (such as in a bankruptcy prediction task). Interestingly, the results indicate that there is no significant effect of sparkline on decision confidence and time. In conclusion, recall of facts and pattern among subjects was found superior with use of sparkline.

This study provides an empirical and justifiable basis for policy makers to make explicit recommendations about use of novel graphics such as sparkline in digital financial reports. Limitations of this study are noted.

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