Immersive software tools are virtual environments designed to give their users an augmented view of real-world data and ways of manipulating that data. As virtual environments, every action users make while interacting with these tools can be carefully logged, as can the state of the software and the information it presents to the user, giving these actions context. This data provides a high-resolution lens through which dynamic cognitive and behavioral processes can be viewed. In this report, we describe new methods for the analysis and interpretation of such data, utilizing a novel implementation of the Beta Process Hidden Markov Model (BP-HMM) for analysis of software activity logs. We further report the results of a preliminary study designed to establish the validity of our modeling approach. A group of 20 participants were asked to play a simple computer game, instrumented to log every interaction with the interface. Participants had no previous experience with the game's functionality or rules, so the activity logs collected during their naive interactions capture patterns of exploratory behavior and skill acquisition as they attempted to learn the rules of the game. Pre- and post-task questionnaires probed for self-reported styles of problem solving, as well as task engagement, difficulty, and workload. We jointly modeled the activity log sequences collected from all participants using the BP-HMM approach, identifying a global library of activity patterns representative of the collective behavior of all the participants. Analyses show systematic relationships between both pre- and post-task questionnaires, self-reported approaches to analytic problem solving, and metrics extracted from the BP-HMM decomposition. Overall, we find that this novel approach to decomposing unstructured behavioral data within software environments provides a sensible means for understanding how users learn to integrate software functionality for strategic task pursuit.
Mariano, L. J., Poore, J. C., Krum, D. M., Schwartz, J. L., Coskren, W. D., & Jones, E. M. (2015). Modeling strategic use of human computer interfaces with novel hidden Markov models. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00919