The Advantages of Using Color to Represent Constraints in Collaborative Planning Representations

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The present study concerns the representation of plans that incorporate constraints behind the intended activities for team planning tasks. The experimental task was a modification of a game entitled 10 Days in Africa in which the players must complete a journey through the continent of Africa. Dyad members constructed their own planning representations and determined meeting places collaboratively. We augmented the representation of a timeline with representations for the constraints between adjacent events by using color and text. Although both forms of constraint representation improve performance, color is a perceptual feature that is effective without attentional resources. The presence of color resulted in generally improved process and performance as captured by various measures, including verbal interaction. Our finding is consistent with research on color but at a much larger time scale and in the presence of a more complicated cognitive task. Color facilitates planning strategies by drawing attention to opportunities and supporting the chunking of sub-goals. Representing constraints explicitly via color is advantageous in collaborative planning, by halving completion time and reducing discussion concerning constraint compliance, consistent with the view that discussion compensates for display limitations.



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