The effect of experience on the use of multimodal displays in a multitasking interaction
Gable, Thomas Matthew
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Theories and previous work suggest that performance while multitasking can benefit from the use of displays that employ multiple modalities. Studies often show benefits of these multimodal displays but not to the extent that theories of multimodal task-sharing might suggest. However, it is often the case that the studies investigating this effect give users at least one type of display that they are not accustomed to, often an auditory display, and compare their performance on these novel displays to a visual display, with which most people are familiar. This leaves a question open regarding the effects of longer-term experience with these multimodal displays. The current study investigated the effect of practice with multimodal displays, comparing two multimodal displays to a standard visuals-only display. Over the course of four sessions, participants practiced a list-searching secondary task on one of three display types (two auditory plus visual displays, and one visual-only display) while performing a visual-manual task. Measures of search-task and primary task performance along with workload, visual behaviors, and perceived performance were collected. Results of the study support previous work with regard to more visual time on the primary task for those using multimodal displays, and show that perceived helpfulness increased over time for those using the multimodal displays. However, the results also point to practice effects taking place almost equally across the conditions, which suggest that initial task-sharing behaviors seen with well-designed multimodal displays may not benefit as much from practice as hypothesized, or may require additional time to take hold. The results of the research are discussed regarding their use in research and applying multimodal displays in the real world as well as in how these results fit with theories of multimodal task-sharing.