Reminder: Proposals due for APA 2011 on Dec. 1st!

APA Division 21 (Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology) invites submissions for the 2011 Convention of the American Psychological Association, to be held in Washington, D.C. August 4-7, 2011. Proposals for papers, posters, or symposia in areas related to applied experimental/engineering psychology, or human factors/ergonomics, are encouraged.

Broad topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Issues in automation across domains
  • The contribution of applied research to fundamental knowledge and theory
  • Advanced student work
  • International perspectives
  • Use and effectiveness of technology in clinical/healthcare settings

Individuals must submit proposals via the submission portal provided below:

***Submissions are due DECEMBER 1, 2010.***

For more information about Division 21, please see the Division 21 website:

If you are not already a member, join or take advantage of the free trial membership in the division!

Full instructions concerning submissions, submission length, etc. may be found on APA’s site:

Blogging APA Division 21: “One Thing at a Time” (but over a really long time)

I held off for a while writing this post because I wanted to make sure I could include media Dr. John Senders included in his talk. I think you’ll agree it was worth the wait!

At the 2010 APA convention, John W. Senders, Ph.D. presented “One Thing at a Time: From Eye Fixations (1951), to Sampling (1954), to Information Theory (1955), to Workload (1959), to Queuing Theory (1964), to Attentional Demand (1966), Followed by a Lapse of 40 Years.” Video of the talk will eventually be posted on the Division 21 website.

Dr. Senders mentioned an eye tracking experiment from the 1950s, before any “eye trackers” existed. The method was to film the eyes of pilots as they scanned each instrument in a cockpit according to instruction. The position of the pilots eyes were coded in the close-up video. For example, a pilot might be told to “look at the altimeter,” and then the exact position of the pilot’s eyes was coded as “looking at altimeter.” Then, when the pilots were using their instruments naturally, a video of this use could be coded by eye position to know exactly when and where they were looking at any moment.

In another ingenious methodological development, Senders created a vision sampling device. The video below illustrates how it worked – a mechanical visor rose and fell in front of the driver’s eyes.

Dr. Senders came up with this idea of sampling while driving through a heavy rainstorm at different speeds, while the speed of the windshield wipers stayed the same. The visor in the video does the same — the rate of viewing can be controlled and the attentional demands of the driving task measured.

For more information, see the CogWorks website.

I’ve already covered these techniques in my classes as they are great demonstrations of creativity in research methods. If one has a well defined purpose and goal, a tool can often be created from surprising materials. Another example I often cite is the actual picture of Thorndike’s puzzle box — a splintered and rickety contraption that bears little resemblance to the finely drawn illustrations in intro psychology textbooks.

Redesigning the airline boarding pass

Designer Tyler Thompson gets frustrated with boarding passes and attempts to redesign them.  I recently had a very similar experience with a boarding pass: my first flight was delayed and my connecting flight was taking off in minutes.  As I sprinted through the airport I glanced at my boarding pass only to stop dead in my tracks as I had to devote all my attention to examining it for useful information (I missed my flight).

Old boarding pass
Mock up
Mock up

More usability in the news: CAPS LOCK OFF ON STREET SIGNS

It is unfortunate I only found the NY Post as a source for this, but it is still an interesting moment of research-to-practice. From the article:

The Capital of the World is going lower-case.

Federal copy editors are demanding the city change its 250,900 street signs — such as these for Perry Avenue in The Bronx — from the all-caps style used for more than a century to ones that capitalize only the first letters.

Changing BROADWAY to Broadway will save lives, the Federal Highway Administration contends in its updated Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, citing improved readability.

Studies have shown that it is harder to read all-caps signs, and those extra milliseconds spent staring away from the road have been shown to increase the likelihood of accidents, particularly among older drivers, federal documents say.

The new regulations also require a change in font from the standard highway typeface to Clearview, which was specially developed for this purpose.

I think it is counterintuitive how much sentence-case helps with reading. For example, my mother asked me last year to help her type and print a speech she was giving. She wanted it in all caps so she could “read it more easily” while standing up. I think there is a perception of caps as larger and therefore more readable and this will have to be overcome for initiatives like this one to succeed. (I did not end up convincing my mother, even after making a nice large font, and so I printed it just how she wanted it… in all, unreadable, caps.)

Photo credit ➨ Redvers

Was it the interface?

A story at The Chronicle discusses the appointment and immediate resignation of a faculty member elected as chairperson of their department. Below are some quotes from the article that make me wonder what one had to do to remove one’s name from the ballot.

Mr. Sheppard was elected under an online-election system, introduced last year, that was designed to make it easier for faculty members to vote and to get them more involved in campus life by automatically nominating professors for all posts they were eligible for.

Professors who logged on to the Web site but did not remove their names were assumed to be willing to serve. Those who did not log on at all were also listed, but voters were warned that the candidates’ willingness to serve was uncertain.

Mr. Hopkins says he sent multiple e-mails explaining the process.

Mr. Sheppard, who did not return calls for comment, reportedly claimed that he had logged on and removed his name from consideration. But Mr. Hopkins says computer records show that Mr. Sheppard logged on but did not remove his name, making him a viable candidate.

I’m really curious as to what the “website” interface looked like and what a faculty member had to do to to remove his or her name.