A mouse is a hand-operated input device used to navigate a computer screen. As a user moves a mouse around their desk surface, the cursor on the screen of their computer moves accordingly allowing the user to navigate their computer screen. A typical mouse also has two buttons towards the top which engage different functions in most applications (left click is almost always a select function while right click can engage a variety of functions depending on the computer program). Mouses are available in wired and wireless versions, the benefit of wireless being portability. Mouses are also available in ball or laser versions, the benefit of laser over ball being precision (however the increase in precision is beyond the needs of most users, often only required for gaming or graphic design).
Mouses are very common computer input devices, however with the proliferation of touch-screen devices the efficacy of mouse input compared to touch input has been questioned. Touch has been shown to be more accurate and preder for simple computer drawing tasks (Zabramski, Gkouskos & Lind, 2011). One study compared mouse input across different age groups and found that adults performed more poorly than younger participants especially on the more complex input tasks (clicking and double-clicking), and that these results were related to declines in psychomotor control (Smith, Sharit, & Czaja, 1999). Findings such as this contribute to the reason that many alternative computer input devices have been developed (see <Fine Motor>). Another research found similar results, when navigating a computer, older adults were significantly slower than younger adults in general (Findlater, Froehlich, Fattal, Wobbrock & Dastyar, 2013). However, when comparing their performance on both touch screens and mouse input tasks, the touchscreen condition reduced this age based performance gap. Young people were 16% faster using touchscreen vs using mouse, while older adults were 35% faster and has less errors using touch screen over mouse input (Findlater et al., 2013).
Other researchers have investigated combinations of mouse input and other input methods together, including eye tracking and voice control. Eye tracking has been combined with mouse input for people who use multiple computer monitors and been found to reduce mouse movement requirements and was perceived favourably by participants, however task-time actually increased (Ashdown, Oka, Sato, 2005). Another team combined speech input with mouse movement and found that 37% of participants preferred using both over one by itself (Bekker, van Nes & Juola, 1995). While these studies show creative integrations with mouses and other input methods, none have proved successful enough to become popular amongst the general public.
In terms of the use of mouse by children, most studies focus on what types of input methods and tasks children struggle with and which they excel in. The available research seems to be quite contradictory, with one research group finding children were better able to perform click and drag tasks over tasks were users click-move-click (Donker & Reitsma, 2007) while another found that students are faster and more accurate with point and click style of interaction than they are with drag and drop methods (Inkpen, 2001). This research ought to be further developed and reconciled, however with the mass use of computer mouses by today’s youth, research has moved onto more complex research questions.
Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable.
Allow users to effectively navigate a computer.
Very common tools.
Requires voluntary motor control.
While mouses are appropriate input tools for most people, consider other alternative input tools.
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Ashdown, M., Oka, K., & Sato, Y. (2005). Combining head tracking and mouse input for a GUI on multiple monitors. In CHI'05 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems(pp. 1188-1191). ACM.
Bekker, M. M., van Nes, F. L., & Juola, J. F. (1995). A comparison of mouse and speech input control of a text-annotation system. Behaviour & Information Technology, 14(1), 14-22.
Donker, A., & Reitsma, P. (2007). Young children’s ability to use a computer mouse. Computers & Education,48(4), 602-617.
Findlater, L., Froehlich, J. E., Fattal, K., Wobbrock, J. O., & Dastyar, T. (2013). Age-related differences in performance with touchscreens compared to traditional mouse input. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems(pp. 343-346). ACM.
Inkpen, K. M. (2001). Drag-and-drop versus point-and-click mouse interaction styles for children. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 8(1), 1-33.
Smith, M. W., Sharit, J., & Czaja, S. J. (1999). Aging, motor control, and the performance of computer mouse tasks. Human factors, 41(3), 389-396.
Zabramski, S., Gkouskos, D., & Lind, M. (2011). A comparative evaluation of mouse, stylus and finger input in shape tracing. In 1st European Workshop on HCI Design and Evaluation(pp. 57-61). IRIT Press.
Written by Bronwyn Lamond, Last Revision May 2018