Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Kevin Bennett (Advisor), Herb Colle (Committee Member), John Flach (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Objective: Our purpose was to discuss alternative principles of design (emergent features and perceptual objects) for analogical visual displays, to evaluate the utility of four different displays for a system state identification task, and to compare outcomes to predictions derived from the design principles. Background: An interpretation of previous empirical findings for three displays (bar graph, polar graphic, alpha-numeric) is provided from an emergent features perspective. A fourth display (configural coordinate) was designed to leverage powerful perception-action skills using principles of cognitive systems engineering / ecological interface design (i.e., direct perception). Methods: An experiment was conducted to evaluate these four displays. Primary dependent variables were accuracy and latency. Results: Numerous significant effects were obtained and a clear rank ordering of performance emerged (from best to worst): configural coordinate, bar graph, alpha-numeric, polar graphic. Conclusions: The findings are difficult to reconcile with principles of design based on perceptual objects but perfectly consistent with principles based on emergent features. Limitations of the most effective configural coordinate display are discussed and a redesign is provided to address them. Applications: The principles of ecological interface design that are described here (i.e., the quality of very specific mappings between domain, display, and observer constraints) are applicable to the design of all forms of displays for all work domains.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Psychology

Year Degree Awarded