Visual Analytics and Imaging Laboratory (VAI Lab)
Computer Science Department, Stony Brook University, NY

PeckVis: A Visual Analytics Tool to Analyze Dominance Hierarchies in Small Groups

Won Best Paper Award at the Visual Data Symposium (VDS) 2019

Abstract:The formation of social groups is defined by the interactions among the group members. Studying this group formation process can be useful in understanding the status of members, decision-making behaviors, spread of knowledge and diseases, and much more. A defining characteristic of these groups is the pecking order or hierarchy the members form which help groups work towards their goals. One area of social science deals with understanding the formation and maintenance of these hierarchies, and in our work we provide social scientists with a visual analytics tool - PeckVis - to aid this process. While online social groups or social networks have been studied deeply and lead to a variety of analyses and visualization tools, the study of smaller groups in the field of social science lacks the support of suitable tools. Domain experts believe that visualizing their data can save them time as well as reveal findings they may have failed to observe. We worked alongside domain experts to build an interactive visual analytics system to investigate social hierarchies. Our system can discover patterns and relationships between the members of a group as well as compare different groups. The results are presented to the user in the form of an interactive visual analytics dashboard. We demonstrate that domain experts were able to effectively use our tool to analyze animal behavior data.

Teaser: This image shows the PeckVis interface for analyzing dominance hierarchies formed by a single group of subjects, here chicken:

At the top is a control panel to select a group for analysis, here chicken group 10 (blue color) is selected. Below this are two panels on the left that include a heatmap table to summarize hierarchies formed and a balloon plot below it to summarize the interactions in the group. To the right of these panels (from top to bottom) is the state sequence and state variant sequence that represent the hierarchies formed and below these is the music notation and rank evolution chart that shows the raw interaction data and how the ranks of subjects change with every interaction. Here, the user selected state 38 and 39 for inspection via the heatmap. The corresponding states, state variants, and interactions were highlighted in the charts to the right of the heatmap. Further, the user deselected a state variant (second to last in the variant sequence) which causes the partial highlight in last state of the state sequence. Section 6.1 details this group’s analysis.

Video: Watch it to get a quick overview:

Paper: D. Coelho, I. Chase, K. Mueller, "PeckVis: A Visual Analytics Tool to Analyze Dominance Hierarchies in Small Groups," IEEE Trans. on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 26(4), 1650-1660, 2020. pdf ppt

Funding: NSF grant IIS-1527200