Posts Tagged ‘human factors’

Attendance at 2014 Convention of the American Psychological Association

August 13, 2014

Before posting about the substantive information from the convention, I shall first review some human factors technology issues. The convention was held in the Convention Center of Washington DC. The informational signs were not satisfactory. Even though I had been there before, navigation was a problem. In all fairness I must admit that the DC Convention Center is not unique in having this problem. I cannot remember any place I have been that did not suffer from this deficiency. The same problem applied to highway signs. The signs are useful to people who know the area. They are not useful for those unfamiliar with the area. In all fairness to the APA, at least, there were human guides strategically placed throughout the convention center to provide directions and information.

Road signs present an interesting case. There are standards for road sign legibility, although I do not think they are well enforced, nor that there needs to be a requirement about the illumination of these signs. Now what is the point of being able to read a sign if you don’t know what it means?

The fundamental problem is that the people who design the signs know the area quite well for which they are designing. The utility of these signs need to be tested with people who do not know the area. Were this to be done effectively, the problem would largely disappear.

I also took my iPad to the convention. I am a new iPad user. I recently purchased a MacPro rather than undergo the frustration of Windows 8. I had been avoiding Apple for many years for a couple of reasons. The first being their contention that the MacIntosh was intuitive. All one needed to do was to be able to point and click. Personal experience supplemented with volumes of empirical data provide ample proof that this claim was unsubstantiated. Secondly, I could not believe the gaul of Apple to sue Microsoft for Windows. The windows graphical user interface was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and implemented the their Star computer. Xerox is to be faulted for not commercializing and supporting the Star computer. They could have captured both the commercial and the academic markets. Regardless, Apple had no claim on the Windows concept.

And as far as being intuitively obvious, I found there to be nothing intuitive about the iPad. Although it does have Siri, I have not found Siri to have the information I needed when I needed it. However, she did provide a means of venting and cursing that I found to be cathartic. She never is offended and proffers, “You are entitled to your opinion.” But Apple does have Apple Geniuses. One can schedule appointments without difficulty and have a real human being, who is quite knowledgeable and easy to worth with. I hope that Apple keeps these geniuses and that other companies follow their lead.

The APA had a downloadable APP for the meeting in addition to the large, bulky conventional program of 592 pages. I found them both to be useful. Unfortunately the convention APP could not stand alone to my satisfaction. Although it might have contained all the information that the paper program had, I still found that it was easier to find certain things in the paper program.

I had planned to try taking notes on my iPad. I could do this either by typing or by writing. I found my writing to be both illegible and uneconomical. One of the benefits of typing is that it is legible. Moreover, I had read an article that disabused me of this idea. According to a piece in theMonitor on Psychology (page 21 July/August, 2014) this question was addressed by researchers from the University of California and Princeton University. In a study reported in Psychological Science. The researchers asked 65 college students to watch a TED talk with the option of taking notes via the laptop or by hand. A half hour after the talk the students answered factual recall questions and conceptual application questions about the lecture. Both types of note takers performed equally well on fact recall questions, but the laptop note takers performed significantly worse on the conceptual questions. Moreover, one week later when the students were given a chance to review their notes before taking the test, the longhand note takers still performed better.

It is interesting to speculate why this result was obtained. As the students were not randomly assigned to one group or the other, it is possible that the longhand note takers were better students. But if the students had been randomly assigned to the groups, then some of the students would be performing a different way of taking notes that might have been awkward. This was one of those situations where random assignment would have been ill advised. Perhaps the requirements of typing used up attention that could have ben spent processing the lecture. Or perhaps there was more freedom taking notes longhand as diagrams and links could have been used. This might have especially aided conceptual understanding.

Another reason for taking conventional handwritten notes, is that I feared losing information with the undesirable consequence that my posts about the Convention would have been rather thin.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Modifying the Work Environment and the Home Environment

June 15, 2014

Modifying the Work Environment and the Home Environment
is another chapter in Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind by Greenwood and Parasuraman.  It covers research in the field of Human Factors and Ergonomics.  I am a longstanding member in the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.  The field of Human Factors and Ergonomics is devoted to designing technologies and environments so that they can be used effectively and safely.  Greenwood and Parasuraman note that their coverage of the broad area of human factors and ergonomic design for older adults is limited to just a few topics, including health-care technologies aimed at older adults and assistive technologies for the home.  They do provide references for more general coverage of basic research issues in human factors and aging.  There is much research into sensory-perceptual factors and interface designs and devices to compensate for losses in both sensory and motor functions that are not provided in the book.

Assistive technologies for self-care and “aging in place” are being developed.  This is especially important because more that 90 % of older adults live in their own homes, with relatives, or in independent-living facilities.  Older adults living alone are of special concern.  Some older people  have banded together so that they can age-in-place.  They organize self-help “villages” to screen service providers (repair technicians, for example) and other direct services such as meal delivery to dues-paying members.

The proper design of these assistive technologies has special importance for the elderly.  Daily we interact with and are frustrated by poorly designed devices (and software).  This frustration is exacerbated in the elderly who may abandon the use of the technology or, worse yet, use it improperly.

The Georgia Institute of Technology has been at the forefront of research to introduce “intelligent” technologies to help older adults age in place.  They have developed what they term the “Aware Home”, which is a conventional appearing house with many sensing and computing infrastructure designed to keep older individuals safe and improving their lives.  Information can be sent to a friend or relative to keep them aware of where the individual is in the house and what they are doing.

Honeywell has developed an Independent Living Lifestyle Assistant (ILSA)to support an independently living  older person with extensive monitoring and management (including the monitoring of temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate)  and with the ability to control remotely lights, power, a thermostat, door locks, and water flow.  There are many sensitive issues implementing these systems indicating that more research needed to be done.  Overreliance and complacency are two of the problems that need to be addressed.  Continued research will yield improved systems, and technology can be employed in an a ad hoc manner.  Imagine using Skype to keep tabs regularly on an older friend or relative.   Enter “Aging in Place Technology Watch”  to learn of a large range of activities taking place in this area. offers a wide range of information and products

© Douglas Griffith and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.