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The role of working memory on graphical information processing

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This research extends previous graphics research by examining how individual differences in working memory (WM) capacity and changes in graphic design influence graphical information processing. An experiment compared decision accuracy of two graphic decision aids and an unaided group for a task at two levels of complexity. There were no accuracy differences for the low complexity task. At high levels of task complexity, accuracy depended upon WM capacity and how the graphic aid influenced perception. Eye movement data show information processing differences also are contingent upon graphic design features and WM capacity. We postulate that graphs reduce cognitive overhead by shifting some of the cognitive burden to our visual perception system. More efficient graphical perceptual will improve decision performance only if our cognitive resources are capacity constrained and those cognitive resources are used elsewhere in the problem solving process.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 1997

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