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Interpreting maps through the eyes of expert and novice users

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The experiments described in this article combine response time measurements and eye movement data to gain insight into the users' cognitive processes while working with dynamic and interactive maps. Experts and novices participated in a user study with a ‘between user’ design. Twenty screen maps were presented in a random order to each participant, on which he had to execute a visual search. The combined information of the button actions and eye tracker reveals that both user groups showed a similar pattern in the time intervals needed to locate the subsequent names. From this pattern, information about the users' cognitive load could be derived: use of working memory, learning effect and so on. Moreover, the response times also showed that experts were significantly faster in finding the names in the map image. This is further explained by the eye movement metrics: experts had significantly shorter fixations and more fixations per second meaning that they could interpret a larger part of the map in the same amount of time. As a consequence, they could locate objects in the map image more efficiently and thus faster.
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Keywords: cartography; cognitive map; eye tracking; usability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography,Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium 2: Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science,Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium 3: Department of Experimental Psychology,Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Publication date: 2012-10-01

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