Evaluating spatial memory in two and three dimensions
Prior research has shown that the efficient use of graphical user interfaces is strongly dependent on human capabilities for spatial cognition. One facet of spatial cognition is the ability to quickly and accurately recall and access the location of objects in a spatial arrangement. This paper describes a series of experiments aimed at determining whether three-dimensional user interfaces better support spatial memory than their more traditional two-dimensional counterparts. The experiments are conducted using both computer-supported systems and physical models that vary the depth and perspective cues in spatial arrangements of interface items. The physical models were used to escape some of the dimensional ambiguities that are hard to control using computer displays. Results strongly suggest that adding a third dimension to computer displays does not aid users’ spatial memory. Although there were no significant differences between the effectiveness of spatial memory when using two- and three-dimensional computer interfaces, participants’ memory for the location of cards representing web-pages was reliably better when using a two-dimensional physical model than when using an equivalent three-dimensional physical model.