HFES Conference in San Antonio, Part 3 – Health/Internet…and ROBOTS!

One of my major interests at the moment is in the use of technological tools (primarily the Web) in the management of health.  So it was with great pleasure that there was so much research on this topic (I will mention more in future posts).

The first was presented in the Aging session (where Anne was program chair).  Jessie Chin and her co-authors were interested in a cognitive dilemma faced by older adults.  With increasing age, fluid cognitive abilities (those used in rapidly changing situations like working memory) decline with age.  These abilities seem particularly crucial when using the web as well as other tasks.  However, it is known that older adults often compensate for fluid ability declines by capitalizing on pre-existing knowledge (so called crystallized knowledge) which increases with age. (For an adequate and publicly available elaboration of the fluid/crystallized distinction, see the Wikipedia entry).

09AMlogoThe researchers examined the relationships between fluid and crystallized intelligence on illness knowledge in older adults (hypertension knowledge).  Consistent with their hypothesis, they critically found that illness knowledge (a form of crystallized intelligence gained through time) was a significant predictor of illness knowledge and that this knowledge may moderate the reduced fluid abilities.

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Bad Design: Mouse mode and feedback

I interrupt this HFES re-cap to express my slight dismay at my new computer mouse.  I purchased a portable Bluetooth-enabled mouse for my laptop (I hate using those mouse nubs).  The mouse is pretty nice because instead of a scroll wheel, it uses a full trackball to scroll.

Depending on my mood or environmental conditions, I can switch the mouse between regular mouse + roller scroll ball and full trackball–useful for small spaces or surfaces where the mouse will not work.

Turning the mouse on or switching modes requires you to press the mode button.  Can you find it?

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HFES Conference in San Antonio, Part 2 – Eliciting Knowledge Structures

I‘d like to highlight some of the talks I enjoyed last week and point our readers to their research.

First up, we have:

The Influence of Rating Method on Knowledge Structures.
Chad C. Tossell, Rice U.; Brent A. Smith, U.S. Air Force Academy; Roger W. Schvaneveldt, Arizona State U., Polytechnic

This talk was a great introduction to understanding how we organize information in the brain as we change from novices to experts in a task. This isn’t something I’ve done in my work, so I learned a great deal in the 15 minute presentation.

In a nutshell, one can use a technique called Pathfinder to see how people link concepts associated with a job or task. These links can be analyzed to see how people change the organization of the knowledge as they become experts. For example, a novice would have a very different understanding of how the parts of an engine depend on one another, or at best only show topical links between parts of the system. An expert mechanic would organize the parts of the engine differently. Usually the knowledge structure of one expert is very similar to that of other experts (while novices vary greatly.)

Unfortunately, using the Pathfinder technique is time consuming and arduous. The current talk focused on simplifying the technique while preserving the integrity of the findings.

Continue reading HFES Conference in San Antonio, Part 2 – Eliciting Knowledge Structures

HFES Conference in San Antonio, Part 1

Anne and I just got back from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society conference held in San Antonio.  We plan on posting some snippets of posters/talks that we found interesting in an upcoming post.  But in the mean time, here is a panorama of the view from our hotel.


Being in San Antonio, TX, we also visited a Cowboy bar complete with a mechanical bull.  Being human factors geeks, we had to take a look at the surprisingly simple controls used to create such complex movements.  And no, we did not analyze the controls or interview the operator 😉


Error Leads to Radiation Overdose

Not much detail but the LATimes is reporting that:

“There was a misunderstanding about an embedded default setting applied by the machine . . . ,” officials at the renowned Los Angeles hospital said in a written statement that provided no other details about how the error occurred. “As a result, the use of this protocol resulted in a higher than expected amount of radiation.”

The article ends with an interesting footnote:

Dr. Thomas Dehn, a radiologist and chief medical officer for National Imaging Associates Inc., which manages health plans for private insurers, said he believes that overrides are more likely to occur at large, state-of-the-art hospitals.

“At a small hospital, you are not going to try and out-think GE,” he said.

“You have to be pretty confident to think you know more than the guys who designed the equipment.”

This incident reminds me of an incident documented in the book Set Phasers on Stun.

(post image http://www.flickr.com/photos/kayakaya/ / CC BY-SA 2.0)