Color Me Calm: The Influence of Affectively Congruent Color Assignments in Categorical Mapping

Authors: Cary Anderson*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Cartography
Keywords: Cartography, Emotion, Color, Map Design
Session Type: Illustrated Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Canal St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cheerful yellow, calming blue: colors often have emotional connotations. Map data contexts, similarly, are often emotive in nature – either inherently (e.g., climate change, disease mortality maps), or by design, such as in visual storytelling. Recent work in data visualization has shown that small, perceptually-distinct color palettes – such as those used in categorical mapping – often carry noteworthy affective connotations. Although there has been significant prior research to assess the role of color in map interpretation with regards to visual perception (e.g., Brewer et al., 1997), little is known about how the affective qualities of color interact with those of data context in map design. We define an affectively congruent color scheme as one that shares similar affective qualities with the topic, theme, or data content of the map to which it is applied. In this paper, we present a user study to characterize the influence of affectively congruent vs. incongruent color schemes on categorical map interpretation. We collect both objective (pattern detection) and subjective (affective quality; preference) measures of map-reader response. Our results will suggest future research directions for balancing color congruence with other factors such as visual discriminability, and we offer preliminary design recommendations for synthesizing color and affective context in categorical maps.

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