Okan, Yasmina, Eva Janssen, Mirta Galesic, and Erika A. Waters
Background: Visual displays can facilitate risk communication and promote better health choices. Their effectiveness in predicting risk comprehension is influenced by graph literacy. However, the construct of graph literacy is still insufficiently understood, partially because existing objective measures of graph literacy are either too difficult or too long. Objectives: We constructed a new 4-item Short Graph Literacy (SGL) scale and examined how SGL scores relate to key cognitive, affective, and conative precursors of health behavior change described in common health behavior theories. Methods: We performed secondary analyses to adapt the SGL scale from an existing 13-item scale. The initial construction was based on data collected in a laboratory setting in Germany (n=51). The scale was then validated using data from nationally representative samples in Germany (n=495) and the United States (n=492). To examine how SGL scores relate to precursors of health behavior change, we performed secondary analyses of a third study involving a nationwide US sample comprised of 47% racial/ethnic minorities and 46% with limited formal education (n=835). Results: Graph literacy was significantly associated with cognitive precursors in theoretically expected ways (e.g., positive associations with risk comprehension and response efficacy, and a negative association with cognitive risk perception). Results for affective precursors generally mirrored those for cognitive precursors, although numeracy was a stronger predictor than graph literacy for some affective factors (e.g., feelings of risk). Additionally, graph literacy (but not numeracy) predicted key conative precursors such as defensive processing. Conclusions: Our data suggest that the SGL scale is a fast and psychometrically valid method for measuring objective graph literacy. Our findings also highlight the theoretical and practical relevance of graph literacy.