Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Applied Psychology


Pak, Richard

Committee Member

Gugerty , Leo

Committee Member

Pagano , Christopher


Older adults are faced with complex decision tasks that impose high working memory demands. A representative task is choosing a prescription drug plan from a multitude of options that must be evaluated along many factors. The combined effect of the quantity of complex information, and reduced working memory capacity puts older adults at a disadvantage. However, research with younger adults suggests that the working memory burden of decision tasks can be reduced using well-designed, graphical decision aids (i.e., environmental supports). The current study examined the use of environmental supports to support complex decision-making for older adults. Two experiments were conducted; experiment 1 assessed two information visualizations (color and size) on their ability to minimize the working memory demands of the task. Results from experiment 1 suggest that the color information visualization does in fact minimize working memory demand by replacing cognitive comparisons with perceptual comparisons. The second experiment validated the efficacy of the color information visualization in an older adult group. Findings suggest that the use of color to visualize information can successfully ameliorate working memory demand for direct comparisons, but not for complex integration tasks. Finally, the results suggest that information visualizations that rely on perceptual abilities rather than cognitive abilities may help improve older adults' decision making accuracy.

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