Attention affordances : applying attention theory to the design of complex visual interfaces

Andersen, E. and Goucher-Lambert, K. and Cagan, J. and Maier, A. (2021) Attention affordances : applying attention theory to the design of complex visual interfaces. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 27 (2). pp. 338-351. ISSN 1076-898X (

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The design of visual interfaces plays a crucial role in ensuring swift and accurate information search for operators, who use procedures and information tables to cope with problems arising during emergencies. The primary cognitive mechanism involved in information search is visual attention. However, design of interfaces is seldom done through applying predictions of theories of attention. Conversely, theories of attention are seldom tested in applied contexts. Combining application and attention research thus stands to benefit both fields. Therefore, this study tested three theories of visual attention that are especially relevant for information processing in emergencies—Load Theory, Feature Integration Theory, and Dilution Theory—as well as predictions about attentional guidance and capture of color in a complex visual interface. Evidence was found for several predictions from theory, especially from Feature Integration Theory. Implications for design practice and attention research are discussed