Carter, L. (October 2006)
Empirical studies of cognitive representations have shown that judgment and reasoning can be affected by the spatial properties of information. Empirical studies of human-computer interface design have shown that spatial presentations of information can aid users' navigation through data and enhance user performance. This study investigates how one spatial property, the location of information, can influence human decision-making and recognition when using a hypertext. The location of information was manipulated on individual screen displays as well as being placed at different levels in the database hierarchy. The experimental reasoning task used here, to decide a legal case, involved judgments of information relevance and inductive reasoning. Subjects tended to decide in favor of the party whose precedents were more directly linked to the evidence. Hence, the manipulation of the links caused a bias in subjects' reasoning. Subjects based their decisions the information that was most available to their mental models when they thought about the evidence and issues in the case. The availability of information was controlled by its presentation and subjects' prior belief biases, suggesting a new principle: representation availability. Results from this study have implications for the design of data linkages in systems constructed to assist human reasoning and suggest guidelines for the development of such systems.