Effects of Individual Differences in Working Memory on Plan Presentational Choices

Nava Tintarev, Judith Masthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper addresses research questions that are central to the area of visualization interfaces for decision support: (RQ1) whether individual user differences in working memory should be considered when choosing how to present visualizations; (RQ2) how to present the visualization to support effective decision making and processing; and (RQ3) how to evaluate the effectiveness of presentational choices. These questions are addressed in the context of presenting plans, or sequences of actions, to users. The experiments are conducted in several domains, and the findings are relevant to applications such as semi-autonomous systems in logistics. That is, scenarios that require the attention of humans who are likely to be interrupted, and require good performance but are not time critical. Following a literature review of different types of individual differences in users that have been found to affect the effectiveness of presentational choices, we consider specifically the influence of individuals' working memory (RQ1). The review also considers metrics used to evaluate presentational choices, and types of presentational choices considered. As for presentational choices (RQ2), we consider a number of variants including interactivity, aggregation, layout, and emphasis. Finally, to evaluate the effectiveness of plan presentational choices (RQ3) we adopt a layered-evaluation approach and measure performance in a dual task paradigm, involving both task interleaving and evaluation of situational awareness. This novel methodology for evaluating visualizations is employed in a series of experiments investigating presentational choices for a plan. A key finding is that emphasizing steps (by highlighting borders) can improve effectiveness on a primary task, but only when controlling for individual variation in working memory.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1793
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

This research has been carried out within the project Scrutable Autonomous Systems (SAsSY), funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, grant ref. EP/J012084/1.


  • visualization
  • evaluation
  • task interleaving
  • aggregation
  • visual working memory
  • plan presentation


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