The effectiveness of multidimensional symbols in the display of complex multivariate data: Exploring the cognitive limitations
Holden, Kritina Lyn
Lane, David M.
Doctor of Philosophy
Environments that involve the Command, Control and Communication of Information (C$\sp3$I), necessitate a special method of data display to insure that task relevant information is communicated effectively. The present line of research taps the existing basic perceptual and cognitive knowledge base to propose a method of multivariate data display. The concept of a pseudo-integral, task relevant multidimensional symbol is proposed and tested. Three experiments were performed to determine the effectiveness of the proposed multidimensional symbols, as compared with a textual representation in an identification task and a visual search task. One of the primary questions concerned the information carrying potential of a single multidimensional symbol. The experiments revealed that when trained subjects performed identification and search tasks, performance continued to show improvement as the symbol approached five informational dimensions (each representing binary values). In fact, performance with complex symbolic displays was significantly better than performance with complex textual displays. When, however, three of the five informational dimensions were expanded to include a possible range of four values instead of two, performance deteriorated and was inferior to performance with textual displays. This line of research establishes the feasibility of the multidimensional display concept and confirms that it is worthy of further research attention.