What and When of Removing Virtual Gallbladders: Impact of Spatial and Temporal Aspects for Understanding Complex Diagrams


Reading complex graphs has been shown to be difficult for diverse groups of participants from different backgrounds and different levels of expertise in the task domain. This study investigated the impact of temporal and spatial task aspects for reducing complexity and increasing performance for a surgical task with medical students. 85 premedical and medical students solved an anatomy test on the gallbladder, a test on the steps of the procedure of removing the gallbladder, and a test combining both in a web-based survey. For all 3 tasks, performance increases with years in college. More interestingly, medical students performed best for the combined task and worst for the anatomy task. This implies students could use temporal and spatial relationships to overcome knowledge gaps to solve the complex task. Having an idea what to do first and where to do it, helped students to reconstruct a complex surgical task.

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