Effects of map design characteristics on users' search performance and cognitive load: An empirical study

Hosam Al-Samarraie, Atef Eldenfria, Melissa Lee Price, Fahed Zaqout, Wan Mohamad Fauzy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
100 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-679
Number of pages13
JournalThe Electronic Library
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

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  • Information visualization
  • Cognitive load
  • Information processing
  • Symbolic maps


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