The human factors of computer input using a mouse device

  • David Barker

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis investigates how people select items from a computer display using the mouse input device. The term computer mouse refers to a class of input devices which share certain features, but these may have different characteristics which influence the ways in which people use the device. Although task completion time is one of the most commonly used performance measures for input device evaluation, there is no consensus as to its definition. Furthermore most mouse studies fail to provide adequate assurances regarding its correct measurement.Therefore precise and accurate timing software were developed which permitted the recording of movement data which by means of automated analysis yielded the device movements made. Input system gain, an important task parameter, has been poorly defined and misconceptualized in most previous studies. The issue of gain has been clarified and investigated within this thesis. Movement characteristics varied between users and within users, even for the same task conditions. The variables of target size, movement amplitude, and experience exerted significant effects on performance. Subjects consistently undershot the target area. This may be a consequence of the particular task demands. Although task completion times indicated that mouse performance had stabilized after 132 trials the movement traces, even of very experienced users, indicated that there was still considerable room for improvement in performance, as indicated by the proportion of poorly made movements. The mouse input device was suitable for older novice device users, but they took longer to complete the experimental trials. Given the diversity and inconsistency of device movements, even for the same task conditions, caution is urged when interpreting averaged grouped data. Performance was found to be sensitive to; task conditions, device implementations, and experience in ways which are problematic for the theoretical descriptions of device movement, and limit the generalizability of such findings within this thesis.
Date of AwardSept 1993
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRobert Stammers (Supervisor)


  • human factors
  • input devices
  • age differences
  • human computer interaction

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