Human Factors: information processing

In Human Factors on December 17, 2010 at 6:11 pm

In the Talk Aloud Method of usability, the observer can begin to understand how the user is processing information gained from interacting with the computer software and hardware
designed to improve safety. Situation awareness. Situation awareness refers to the individual’s ability to assess the environment, determine meaning from the perceptions and patterns present and predict events
based on this information (St Pierre, Hofinger & Buerschaper, 2008). Endsley’s three-level model for situation awareness describes it as an aspect of information processing that “follows perception and leads to decision making and action execution” (Salmon, Stanton, Walker, Baber,Jenkins, McMaster, & Young, 2008, p. 300). The layout of a workplace as well as the way in which information is presented can enhance situation awareness (St. Pierre, et al., 2008). This includes the timing of alerts and alarms and their display as well as the display of other information. Technology in the form of computers and software should be designed to support
situation awareness.
Memory. Prospective memory relates to the ability of humans to remember to perform an intended task after a delay (Dieckmann, Reddersen, Wehner & Rall, 2006). This ability allows one to resume tasks after being interrupted and remember what other tasks are remaining (Dieckmann, et. al., 2006). It is well documented in healthcare environments that interruptions and multitasking can lead to errors as well as staff stress when prospective memory is exceeded
(Tucker & Spear, 2006).
Ergonomics should be used to strengthen human factors and reduce human error. Dieckmann, et al., (2006) conducted a study in a simulation lab using senior medical students to review prospective memory. The results showed that during these scenarios, about one-third of intentions of execution were forgotten and therefore not executed. The intentions were simple tasks such as passing on information and checking and reacting to simple physiological data
(Dieckmann, et al., 2006). Dieckmann, et al., (2006) argue that more psychological study into the process of missed intended execution is necessary to develop ergonomic methods of assistance.
Cognitive fatigue. A study area of interest in Applied Psychology is that of cognitive fatigue. Studies center on determining if there is a length of time for which a human can keep performing complex cognitive tasks without failing and if there are individual characteristics that influence this (Ackerman, Kanfer, Shapiro, Newton & Beier, 2010). In the “Cambridge Cockpit” simulation in 1946 it was found that individuals performed in one of three ways over the time in a lengthy cognitive task: normal as in kept a steady effort throughout the task, overactive as in increased their effort as the task continued and withdrawal as in those who decreased their effort as the length of task time increased (Ackerman, et al., 2010). In 2010, Ackerman, et al. used a demanding cognitive test on ninety-nine college students and found that
despite subjective reports of cognitive fatigue that increased over time, performance on the test did not correlate with the reports of fatigue. Also studied were the effects of trait complexes on
performance. It was found that traits did correlate with subjective reports of fatigue and that these then influenced behavior which then influenced test performance (Ackerman, et al., 2010). Those who perceived cognitive fatigue and reacted with withdrawal did have performance affected (Ackerman, et al., 2006). Efforts therefore to reduce the subjective feelings of cognitive fatigue as well as the introduction of strategies to handle these feelings can improve performance on cognitive tasks.


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