Towards diagram understanding: a pilot study measuring cognitive workload through eye-tracking

Anja Maier, Nick Baltsen, Henrik Christoffersen, Harald Störrle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book

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We investigate model understanding, in particular , how the quality of the UML diagram layout impacts cognitive load. We hypothesize that this w ill have a significant impact on the structure and effectiveness of engineers’ communication. In previous work, we have studied task performance measurements and subjective assessments; here, we also investigate behavioral indicators such as fixation and pupillary dilation. We use such indicators to explore diagram understanding- and reading strategies and how such strategies are impacted, e.g. by diagram type and expertise level. In the pilot eye-tracking experiment run so far, we have only examined a small number of participants (n=4), so our results are preliminary in nature and do not afford far reaching conclusions. They do, however, corroborate findings from earlier experiments, for example, showing that layout quality indeed matters and improves understanding. Our results also give rise to a number of new hypotheses about diagram understanding strategies that we are investigating in an ongoing data acquisition campaign.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of International Conference on Human Behaviour in Design 2014
Place of PublicationAscona, Switzerland
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2014
EventInternational Conference on Human Behaviour in Design 2014 - Congress Center of the ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
Duration: 14 Oct 201417 Oct 2014


ConferenceInternational Conference on Human Behaviour in Design 2014


  • design cognition
  • design communication
  • diagram understanding
  • eye-tracking
  • layout quality
  • model comprehension
  • model-based syst ems engineering
  • UML
  • visual attention


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