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UBC Theses and Dissertations

East is not west : is there validity in cross-cultural usability? Haddad, Shathel Yacoub


This work reports on the design and evaluation of culturally appropriate technology. We investigated cultural differences related to attitudes toward uncertainty between Western Caucasians (more tolerant) and East Asians (less tolerant). Using theory triangulation of cultural attitudes toward uncertainty, we designed information-minimal and information-rich interfaces and hypothesized they would be culturally appropriate for Caucasians and East Asians respectively. Our design context was Cognitive Testing on a Computer (C-TOC): a home-based computerized test under development, intended to screen older adults for cognitive impairments in the absence of a health professional. Using the two interfaces we designed for one C-TOC subtest, we ran an experiment with 36 participants to investigate the effects of cultural attitudes toward uncertainty on performance, preference and experience of anxiety. We found that East Asians preferred the information-rich interface augmented with security elements and learning support: they found it easier to use and felt less anxious with it. By contrast, Caucasians preferred the simpler information-minimal interface with only elements essential for the primary task. Based on our findings, we provide cultural design guidelines for Western Caucasians and East Asians in interaction contexts characterized by uncertainty, such as cognitive testing. We also provide guidelines for using a short uncertainty avoidance questionnaire as a low-cost method for creating adaptive interfaces that cater to varying cultural attitudes toward uncertainty.

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