Our research assessed the ability of the theory of cognitive fit to explain the performance of certain display formats on multiattribute judgment tasks. This theory suggests that for most effective and efficient problem solving to occur, the problem representation (i.e., the data) and any tools or aids employed should all support the strategies (methods or processes) required to perform that task. The effect of information load on performance was also investigated in the context of cognitive fit. Performance with schematic faces, graphs, and tables on a bankruptcy prediction task was investigated with an optimal (nominal) number of variables (those that contributed significantly to a linear discriminant analysis of the data) as well as with additional variables that were, in essence, distractors. Schematic faces provide a cognitive fit with the (holistic) multiattribute judgment tasks under investigation. Graphs facilitate a less desirable aggregating process than schematic faces. Tables, on the other hand, have no aggregating capabilities. Participants made decisions with two of the three display formats, one at nominal and the other at increased information load, in a fractional factorial design. The results on the multiattribute judgment task were as follows. • Performance was better with schematic faces than with either graphs or tables; performance with graphs was not significantly different from that with tables. • Performance decreased as the information load increased. • Performance with schematic faces was insensitive to increases in information load; performance with graphs was lower with increased information load, though the difference was not significant; performance with tables was significantly worse with increased information load. • At increased information load, performance with schematic faces was better than with graphs and tables; performance with graphs was not significantly different from that with tables. This research suggests that decision makers are more effective when presented with data in a form that supports the particular problem to which they wish to apply it. Financial consultants, for example, might wish to consider presenting data in specific ways to impact certain types of decisions. Sufficient evidence now exists to suggest that the notion of cognitive fit may be one aspect of a general theory of problem solving.
Umananth, Narayan S. and Vessey, Iris, "PRESENTATION OF MULTIATYRIBUTE DATA: TESTING THE THEORY OF COGNITIVE FIT" (1991). ICIS 1991 Proceedings. 17.