Devise experiments to test the properties of (i) short-term memory (ii) long term memory, using the experiments described in this chapter to help you. Try out your experiments on your friends. Are your results consistent with the properties described in this chapter?
The aim of this exercise is to get the student to think about experimental design. The experiments devised can effectively be repeats of the originals. Chapter 9 can be used for reference on experimental design.
(i) Short term memory (STM)
The student should first choose an aspect to investigate: for example, digit span, recency effect, decay.
Example solution: STM decay
(ii) Long term memory (LTM)
The student should first choose an aspect to investigate: for example, the total time hypothesis or the distribution of practice effect.
Example solution: distribution of practice effect
(N.B. This one is not easy to run but could be done with cooperation from friends)
Observe skilled and novice operators in a familiar domain: for example, touch and 'hunt-and-peck' typists, expert and novice game players, or expert and novice users of a computer application. What differences can you discern between their behaviours?
From what you have learned about cognitive psychology, devise appropriate guidelines for use by interface designers. You may find it helpful to group these under key headings: for example, visual perception, memory, problem solving, etc, although some may overlap such groupings.
Guidelines are just what they say they are: guidelines. They provide for a consistent look and feel for an interface, as well as trying to exclude the more obvious mistakes that can be made from a psychological perspective. However, there are occasions when such constraints should be broken; for new interaction devices, for example, or to create a unique style of product.
Because of this, there is no one correct answer to this question: some will be more cognitively friendly than others, that is all. Guidelines can range from the general principle type shown below down to highly detailed information on what each component in a display should look and behave like.
Some examples of guidelines with cognitively solid foundations are shown below - this is not an exhaustive set by any means
This exercise should encourage students to look into the literature on human factors, cognitive psychology and human physiology, and come up with some hard evidence about human limitations. This can then be used to provide informed guidelines.
What are mental models, and why are they important in interface design?
answer available for tutors only
What can a system designer do to minimise the memory load of the user?
answer available for tutors only
Human short-term memory has a limited span. This is a series of experiments to determine what that span is. (You will need some other people to take part in these experiments with you - they do not need to be studying the course - try it with a group of friends.)
(a) Kim's Game
Divide into groups. Each group gathers together an assortment of objects - pens, pencils, paper-clips, books, sticky notes, etc. The stranger the object, the better! You need a large number of them - at least 12 to 15. Place them in some compact arrangement on a table, so that all items are visible. Then, swap with another group for 30 seconds only and look at their pile. Return to your table, and on your own try to write down all the items in their pile.
Compare your list with what they actually have in their pile. Compare the number of things you remembered with how the rest of your group did. Now think introspectively: what helped you remember certain things? Did you recognise things in their pile that you had in yours? Did that help? Do not pack the things away just yet.
Calculate the average score for your group. Compare that with the averages from the other group(s).
Questions: What conclusions can you draw from this experiment? What does this indicate about the capacity of short-term memory? What does it indicate that helps improve the capacity of short-term memory?
(b) "I went to market..."
In your group, one person starts off with "I went to market and I bought a fish" (or some other produce, or whatever!). The next person continues "I went to market and I bought a fish and I bought a bread roll as well". The process continues, with each person adding some item to the list each time. Keep going around the group until you cannot remember the list accurately. Make a note of the first time someone gets it wrong, and then record the number of items that you can successfully remember. Some of you will find it hard to remember more than a few, others will fare much better. Do this a few more times with different lists, and then calculate your average score, and your group's average score.
Questions: What does this tell you about short-term memory? What do you do that helps you remember? What do you estimate is the typical capacity of human short-term memory? Is this a good test for short-term memory?
(c) Improving your memory
Try experiment 1.6(a). again, using the techniques on page 39.
Has your recall ability improved? Has your group's average improved? What does this show you about memory?
Locate one source (through the library or the Web) that reports on empirical evidence on human limitations. Provide a full reference to the source. In one paragraph, summarize what the result of the research states in terms of a physical human limitation.
In a separate paragraph, write your thoughts on how you think this evidence on human capabilities impacts interactive system design.