Butler, S. (June 1990)
Users need instructions about the structure of a data base and about what commands are available for use in menu traversal. Early research has shown that subjects who received tree diagrams of a data base were most successful in searching a hierarchical data base. Later research demonstrated that subjects who studied information presented in the form of an analogy performed better than did subjects who studied a tree diagram. Considering work by Vicente, Hayes and Williges, the present experiment atte mpted to show that spatial visualization ability can be used to determine what form of instruction results in a difference in performance very early in the use of a data base. Subjects were grouped according to their spatial visualization ability and wer e randomly assigned to one of four study conditions. Subjects studied either a tree diagram of the data base of college courses, an analogy describing the structure of the data base, both the analogy and the tree diagram, or nothing about the data base. Results replicated the finding that studying a tree diagram results in the best performance among the four methods of study. Furthermore, high spatial visualization subjects made fewer moves and took less time to find targets than did low spatial visual ization subjects. However, results provided no support for accelerated learning when subjects were provided with materials that complemented their spatial visualization ability.