Date of Award

5-2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Applied Psychology

Advisor

Pak, Richard

Committee Member

Gugerty , Leo

Committee Member

Thatcher , Jason

Abstract

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 cognitive load theory. Interface consistency was manipulated along with intrinsic cognitive load and extraneous cognitive load. Interface consistency was manipulated along three dimensions: physical, communicational and conceptual. Intrinsic cognitive load was manipulated by asking participants finance (high load) questions and travel (low load) questions. Unnecessary and irrelevant extra hyperlinks were used to manipulate extraneous cognitive load. These hyperlinks were either present (high load) or absent (low load) in the websites. Forty eight participants searched for answers to 24 questions across four separate websites. Results indicated interactions between consistency and the two types of cognitive load. These interactions suggest that the effects of consistency are dependent upon the difficulty of the task. Specifically, consistency may be especially important for difficult tasks with high cognitive load.

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