Age-related differences in performance using a mouse and trackball

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Bohan, Michael
Chaparro, Alex

Bohan, M., & Chaparro, A. (1998). Age-related differences in performance using a mouse and trackball. Presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Chicago, Illinois, October 5-9, 1998.


Aging is marked by changes in motor control which may be expected to affect performance using computer pointing devices. In this experiment, we compared older and younger adults' ability to acquire on-screen targets of varying distance and size using a mouse and trackball. The older adults moved consistently slower than their younger counterparts with both devices, particularly when making large amplitude movements. Error rates were equivalent for both age groups across all conditions. Analysis of throughput values indicated a significant interaction between age and device in which the younger adults' performance was more degraded when using the trackball than the mouse, while the older adults' performance did not vary across devices. These results are discussed in terms of potential error-averse strategies employed by the older participants in an attempt to compensate for age-related declines in motor control. Although the performance measures obtained in this study imply that older adults would perform equivalently using either the mouse or the trackball, it is not known whether these results generalize to other experimental conditions including different movement tasks, and target characteristics.

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