human factors, human-computer interactions, aging, Fitt's law


As the beneficial aspects of computers become more apparent to the elderly population and the baby boom generation moves into later adulthood there is opportunity to increase performance for older computer users. Performance decrements that occur naturally to the motor skills of older adults have shown to have a negative effect on interactions with indirect-manipulation devices, such as computer mice (Murata & Iwase, 2005). Although, a mouse will always have the traits of an indirect-manipulation interaction, the inclusion of additional sensory feedback likely increases the saliency of the task to the real world resulting in increases in performance (Biocca et al., 2002). There is strong evidence for a bimodal advantage that is present in people of all ages; additionally there is also very strong evidence that older adults are a group that uses extra sensory information to increase their everyday interactions with the environment (Cienkowski & Carney, 2002; Thompson & Malloy, 2004). This study examined the effects of having multimodal feedback (i.e., visual cues, auditory cues, and tactile cues) present during a target acquisition mouse task for young, middle-aged, and older experienced computer users. This research examined the performance and subjective attitudes when performing a mouse based pointing task when different combinations of the modalities were present. The inclusion of audio or tactile cues during the task had the largest positive effect on performance, resulting in significantly quicker task completion for all of the computer users. The presence of audio or tactile cues increased performance for all of the age groups; however the performance of the older adults tended to be positively influenced more than the other age groups due the inclusion of these modalities. Additionally, the presence of visual cues did not have as strong of an effect on overall performance in comparison to the other modalities. Although the presence of audio and tactile feedback both increased performance there was evidence of a speed accuracy trade-off. Both the audio and tactile conditions resulted in a significantly higher number of misses in comparison to having no additional cues or visual cues present. So, while the presence of audio and tactile feedback improved the speed at which the task could be completed this occurred due to a sacrifice in accuracy. Additionally, this study shows strong evidence that audio and tactile cues are undesirable to computer users. The findings of this research are important to consider prior to adding extra sensory modalities to any type of user interface. The idea that additional feedback is always better may not always hold true if the feedback is found to be distracting, annoying, or negatively affects accuracy, as was found in this study with audio and tactile cues.


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Graduation Date



Smither, Janan


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

September 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Psychology Commons