RAA 3: The effects of cognitive ageing on use of complex interfaces.

CognitionReddy, G., Blackler, A., Mahar, D., & Popovic, V. (2010). The effects of cognitive ageing on use of complex interfaces. Proceedings of the 22nd Conference of the Computer-Human Interaction Special Interest Group of Australia on Computer-Human Interaction, 180-183. doi:10.1145/1952222.1952259

Many older adults find it difficult to use modern products because of their function and interface design. Past research shows that the decline in cognitive functioning as you get older affects your speed and accuracy when using complex technological products, but another study shows that effectively using a product is not generation-specific or different depending on your age.

Therefore, the authors of this paper wanted to look deeper at how cognitive aging and prior technology experience affect using such complex interfaces.

37 subjects between ages 18 and 83 participated in the experiment. First, they were given an information package, consent form, eye acuity test, and a questionnaire on their technology experience. Then they were given trials that involved tasks with a body fat analyzer. Task time, errors, body language, and facial expressions were recorded at this time. After, the subjects were given a post test on their technological experience, and used an application to measure “different aspects of cognitive function” (p. 181).

Main Findings
The researchers found a significant negative correlation between experience with technology and task time. Younger people were more likely to be tech-savvy and take less time.

There was also a strong negative correlation between sustained attention, task time, and errors. Older adults were less able to sustain attention.

Lastly, older adults tended to make more errors than the younger participants and also took longer to recover from errors. The authors state that this opposes the Processing-speed Theory proposed by Salthouse (1996), which suggests that there would be minimal differences between older and younger performance if given unlimited amount of time. The experiment had no time restrictions, and therefore the findings contradict this.

Again, due to the subject being elderly and technology, this does relate to my thesis. I thought that the contradiction to the Processing-speed theory was an interesting find and that the experiment resulted good ground work on how complex systems are more difficult for older adults due to cognitive aging. I also thought it was surprising that they had older subjects (aged 60-83) that had decent experience with technology. Although the graph they supplied made it obvious that the time it took to complete tasks were higher than that of younger participants. Maybe the older participants just felt the need to take their time, and the younger ones just wanted to get out of there? A possible threat to internal validity, I suppose.


2 thoughts on “RAA 3: The effects of cognitive ageing on use of complex interfaces.

  1. So, if I understand correctly, even if older people were experienced technology users, their performance with this body fat analyzer was still slower and with more errors.

    What kinds of technologies did people have experience with?

    Could there be something about the body fat scanner’s interface that is more similar to technologies younger people use? Could it be, in some ways, that the body fat scanner uses interface conventions that young people are familiar with? They studied one interface, not complex interfaces in general. Could it be that when faced with a different type of complex interface, the older people would have an advantage?

    Could it be something about the people’s attitudes that explains the results? Digital natives are characterized by impatience and fearlesness. Maybe they are less afraid to try and do various things (though this would cause errors).

    You are right to be cautious about this study’s results. I’d look to neuroscience for findings about cognitive aging.

    Good RAA. Your points are on Bb.

    • The article didn’t go into those limitations but they would indeed present. The authors did state that they assumed a body fat analyzer would be of interest and use to both ages groups, and therefore motivate participants to be engaged during the experiment. It seems that was their only reasoning…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s