Jeremy Mendel: The effect of Interface Consistency and Cognitive Load…

  • Student: Jeremy Mendel
  • Date: November 30th, 2009
  • Time: 2:00 p.m.
  • Location: Brackett 419

The effect of Interface Consistency and Cognitive Load on user performance in an information search task

Although interface consistency is theorized to increase performance and user satisfaction, previous research has found mixed and often non-significant results.  The source of this discrepancy may be due to varying levels of task difficulty employed in these past studies.  This study attempted to control the task difficulty using the cognitive load theory.  Interface consistency was manipulated along with intrinsic cognitive load and extraneous cognitive load.  Interface consistency was manipulated along all three dimensions: physical, communicational and conceptual.  Intrinsic cognitive load was manipulated by asking participants finance (high intrinsic load) questions and travel (low intrinsic load) questions.  Unnecessary and irrelevant extra hyperlinks were used to manipulate extraneous cognitive load.  These hyperlinks were either present (high extraneous load) or absent (low extraneous load) in the websites.  Forty eight participants searched for answers to 24 questions across four separate websites.  Effects of the manipulations were measured by calculating task completion time, error-rate, the total pages navigated, average time spent on each page and participant’s subjective ease-of-use score.  A three-way interaction was observed for between consistency and the two types of cognitive load.  Specifically, a reduction in errors for the consistent condition was observed in the high cognitive load conditions.  These findings suggest that consistency may be especially important in situations with high cognitive load.

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