Spatial Ability and Information Shape: When Do Individual Differences Matter


James Blustein
Jason Satel

Author Addresses: 

Faculty of Computer Science
Dalhousie University
6050 University Ave.
PO Box 15000
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
B3H 4R2


Psychologists have long known that cognitive differences between individuals can significantly affect performance on a variety of tasks. Several recent studies have shown that so-called spatial reasoning ability has a significant effect on users success with (spatial and non-spatial) hypertexts. If we understood why spatial ability has such a strong effect on success with hypertext then we could adapt hypertext for use by different types of people, and explore new types of presentation. It is clear that the different success rates are not solely due to the hypertext systems and the need to integrate two-dimensional spatial data (as with spatial HT systems like VKB) but rather the need to make sense of, and navigate in, multi-dimensional structures of meaning. A. Dillon and D. Schaap refer to some of these issues as `information shape'. Despite clear evidence that spatial reasoning ability affects success with hypertext, studies of the effect are remarkably vague about what subfactors were assessed. We have made a preliminary analysis of these studies to determine their common components. We present both a survey of studies of hypertext that have found such effects, and an investigation.

Tech Report Number: 
Report Date: 
January 26, 2003
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