Attention overload occurs when people are presented with so many different stimuli that they are unable to adequately direct their cognitive processing to all of the inputs. Visual attention overload is conceptually similar and occurs when people are given visual stimuli in a format that prevents them from effectively processing all of the stimuli. The current study examines whether visual attention overload results in differential performance with conceptual model representations for a task requiring identification of errors in relationship cardinalities. This study suggests that visual attention management is an important part of cognitive fit. Specifically, a representation that inhibits processing of information because of visual attention overload is not expected to have cognitive fit with a task that requires repeated use and scanning of the same objects that were previously inhibited. This study allows us to move beyond the “spatial representations should be used for spatial tasks” approach to instead attempt to identify the types of tasks that require repeated use of the representations and therefore are likely not to have cognitive fit with a diagram representation if the diagram is sufficiently complex.
Dunn, Cheryl; Gerard, Gregory; and Grabski, Severin, "Visual Attention Overload: Representation Effects on Cardinality Error Identification" (2003). ICIS 2003 Proceedings. Paper 5.