Individual differences in human-computer interaction

  • Stephen J. Westerman

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis initially presents an 'assay' of the literature pertaining to individual differences in human-computer interaction. A series of experiments is then reported, designed to investigate the association between a variety of individual characteristics and various computer task and interface factors. Predictor variables included age, computer expertise, and psychometric tests of spatial visualisation, spatial memory, logical reasoning, associative memory, and verbal ability. These were studied in relation to a variety of computer-based tacks, including: (1) word processing and its component elements; (ii) the location of target words within passages of text; (iii) the navigation of networks and menus; (iv) command generation using menus and command line interfaces; (v) the search and selection of icons and text labels; (vi) information retrieval. A measure of self-report workload was also included in several of these experiments. The main experimental findings included: (i) an interaction between spatial ability and the manipulation of semantic but not spatial interface content; (ii) verbal ability being only predictive of certain task components of word processing; (iii) age differences in word processing and information retrieval speed but not accuracy; (iv) evidence of compensatory strategies being employed by older subjects; (v) evidence of performance strategy differences which disadvantaged high spatial subjects in conditions of low spatial information content; (vi) interactive effects of associative memory, expertise and command strategy; (vii) an association between logical reasoning and word processing but not information retrieval; (viii) an interaction between expertise and cognitive demand; and (ix) a stronger association between cognitive ability and novice performance than expert performance.
Date of Award1993
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorD. Roy Davies (Supervisor)


  • individual differences
  • human-computer interaction

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