How Do Older Adults Process Icons in Visual Search Tasks? The Combined Effects of Icon Type and Cognitive Aging

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Apr 8;19(8):4525. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19084525.


Considering the differences in cognitive aging among older adults, this study examined how older adults process different types of graphic icons in visual search tasks. Fifty-four medical-related icons, including flat icons (FIs), FIs plus text (FIs + text), skeuomorphic icons (SIs), and SIs plus text (SIs + text), were created. The participants were divided into two groups-cognitively normal (CN) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI)-to complete a visual search task. According to the eye-tracking data of the participants, the search performance of the CN group was significantly better than that of the MCI group. In terms of icon types, all older adults performed better at searching for the combinations of icon and text, especially SI + text, which showed the smallest difference in the search performance between the MCI and CN groups. All older adults performed poorly when searching for FIs. The findings of this study considered the differences in cognitive aging among older adults and provided a useful reference for the icon and interface design of graphical user interfaces.

Keywords: cognitive aging; eye tracking; icon type; interface design; user performance; visual search.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology
  • Cognitive Aging*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction*
  • Humans