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Effects of map design characteristics on users’ search performance and cognitive load: An empirical study

Hosam Al-Samarraie (School of Media and Performing Arts, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
Atef Eldenfria (Faculty of Information Technology, Misurata University, Misurata, Libya)
Melissa Lee Price (Faculty of Theatre and Television, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Fahed Zaqout (School of Art and Sciences, American University of Ras Al Khaimah, Ras al Khaimah, UAE)
Wan Mohamad Fauzy (Department of Instructional Learning Technologies, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 22 August 2019

Issue publication date: 6 September 2019




This paper aims to investigate the influence of map design characteristics on users’ cognitive load and search performance. Two design conditions (symbolic vs non-symbolic) were used to evaluate users’ ability to locate a place of interest.


A total of 19 students (10 male and 9 female, 20-23 years old) participated in this study. The time required for subjects to find a place in the two conditions was used to estimate their searching performance. An electroencephalogram (EEG) device was used to examine students’ cognitive load using event-related desynchronization percentages of alpha, beta and theta brain wave rhythms.


The results showed that subjects needed more time to find a place in the non-symbolic condition than the symbolic condition. The EEG data, however, revealed that users experienced higher cognitive load when searching for a place in the symbolic condition. The authors found that the design characteristics of the map significantly influenced users’ brain activity, thus impacting their search performance.


Outcomes from this study can be used by cartographic designers and scholars to understand how certain design characteristics can trigger cognitive activity to improve users' searching experience and efficiency.



Al-Samarraie, H., Eldenfria, A., Price, M.L., Zaqout, F. and Fauzy, W.M. (2019), "Effects of map design characteristics on users’ search performance and cognitive load: An empirical study", The Electronic Library, Vol. 37 No. 4, pp. 667-679.



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