Evaluating the Effect of Display Realism on Natural Resource Decision Making
Geographic information systems (GIS) facilitate location-based decision making. Despite the improved availability of GIS software to non-professionals, training in cartographic design has not followed suit. Prior research indicates that when presented with map choices, users are influenced by naïve realism, a preference for realistic displays cotaining irrelevant, extraneous details, leading to decreased task efficiency. This study investigated the role of naïve realism in decision making for natural resource management, a field that often employs geospatial tools. Data was collected through a GIS user ability test, a questionnaire and direct observation. Forty volunteer expert and non-expert resource managers evaluated the suitability of different sites for a land management scenario. Each participant was tested on two map display treatments containing different levels of realism – a simpler 2D display and a more complex 3D display – to compare task performance. Performance was measured by task accuracy and task completion time. User perceptions and preferences about the displays were also recorded. Display realism had an impact on performance and there were indications naïve realism was present. Users completed tasks significantly faster on the 2D display and many individuals misjudged which display they were most accurate or fastest with. The results are informative for designing information systems containing interactive maps, particularly for resource management applications. The results also suggest that the order displays were presented had a significant effect and may have implications for teaching users map-based tasks.