Purpose This paper aims to investigate the influence of map design characteristics on users’ cognitive load and search performance. Two design conditions (symbolic vs non-symbolic) were used to evaluate users’ ability to locate a place of interest. Design/methodology/approach A total of 19 students (10 male and 9 female, 20-23 years old) participated in this study. The time required for subjects to find a place in the two conditions was used to estimate their searching performance. An electroencephalogram (EEG) device was used to examine students’ cognitive load using event-related desynchronization percentages of alpha, beta and theta brain wave rhythms. Findings The results showed that subjects needed more time to find a place in the non-symbolic condition than the symbolic condition. The EEG data, however, revealed that users experienced higher cognitive load when searching for a place in the symbolic condition. The authors found that the design characteristics of the map significantly influenced users’ brain activity, thus impacting their search performance. Originality/value Outcomes from this study can be used by cartographic designers and scholars to understand how certain design characteristics can trigger cognitive activity to improve users' searching experience and efficiency.
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- Information visualization
- Cognitive load
- Information processing
- Symbolic maps