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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Priming the cognitive pump : implicit memory and navigating multiple window interfaces MacIsaac, Gary Lorne


When navigating through large-scale information spaces, users may lose track of their location and experience the sensation of being “lost in hyperspace”. A common solution applied to this problem is the graphical user interface, using windows to keep track of the pages visited, to show overview maps of the information space, and to highlight information “landmarks”, all of them serving the user as reminders in support of the task at hand. My thesis focuses on two different types of memory or memory processes--implicit and explicit-- and explores how these may be harnessed in the design of human-computer interfaces. Explicit memory is reflected in tests of conscious recall or recognition of a past event or experience. Implicit memory is revealed through improved performance on tasks that do not require conscious or intentional recollection of previously studied information. I carried out an experiment that used a menu-item selection task, with window arrangement and text justification as the independent variables, where both implicit and explicit memory were assessed. Implicit memory testing focused on the acquisition of a menu-item selection skill under different menu-item mapping conditions; explicit memory testing required recollecting the correct position of target menu-items with the aid of previously seen window displays. Forty undergraduate student volunteers served as subjects. The implicit memory test results showed no effects due to various window arrangement and text justification manipulations. By contrast, explicit memory test performance showed an overall increase in menu-item selection accuracy, an improvement in accuracy across trials, and in addition, it also showed a significant difference in selection accuracy with left- versus right-justified text. The discussion focuses on various aspects of these findings; it explores limits of the present study and outlines plans for future investigations, as well as implications for window management and information presentation.

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