Category Archives: games

Human Factors Psychology Dominates Best Psychology Jobs

Edited because it’s even more awesome than I first thought…

A recent Buzzfeed article listed the “8 Awesome Jobs That Will Convince You To Be A Psychology Major.” I clicked, despite my oath not to read articles that have either numbers in the title or include the word “actually.”

Turns out… three (edit: FOUR) of the eight jobs are held by human factors psychologists.* Of course, if you want any of these jobs you’ll need a Ph.D, not just a psych major.

Get your graduate applications ready for next year, folks. (And use our handy guide to give yourself a leg up).

*One is officially I/O, but I think HF can claim him since he’s been President of HFES, an HFES Fellow, and Editor of the journal Human Factors.

Recent Research Potpourri

Just a small plug for some recent research from Anne and me. The topics are ones that we’ve discussed on the blog:  games and cognitive training and e-health tools.  First, Anne and colleagues recently published a paper showing that playing World of Warcraft can boost some measures of cognitive abilities in older adults:

The effectiveness of a game-based cognitive training intervention on multiple abilities was assessed in a sample of 39 older adults aged 60–77. The intervention task was chosen based on a cognitive task analysis designed to determine the attentional and multi-modal demands of the game. Improvements on a measure of attention were found for the intervention group compared to controls. Furthermore, for the intervention group only, initial ability scores predicted improvements on both tests of attention and spatial orientation. These results suggest cognitive training may be more effective for those initially lower in ability.

Meanwhile, my group has recently published a paper looking at the barriers to older adults’ adoption of electronic personal health records:

Electronic personal health records (PHRs) have the potential to both make health information more accessible to patients and function as a decision-support system for patients managing chronic conditions. Age-related changes in cognition may make traditional strategies of integrating and understanding existing (i.e., paper-based) health information more difficult for older adults. The centralized and integrated nature of health information, as well as the long-term tracking capabilities present in many PHRs, may be especially beneficial for older patients’ management of health. However, older adults tend to be late adopters of technology and may be hesitant to adopt a PHR if the benefits are not made clear (perceived usefulness). Toward the design of a useful PHR, a needs analysis was conducted to determine how people currently manage their health information, what they perceive as useful, and to identify any unmet needs. This paper describes two qualitative studies examining the health information needs of both younger and older adults. The first study used a 2-week diary methodology to examine everyday health questions or concerns, while the second study examined maintenance of health information and perceptions of PHRs through the use of a three-part interview. User’s perceptions of the usefulness of PHRs are provided as recommendations for the design of e-health technology, especially those targeted for older adult healthcare consumers. The results suggest that both older and younger adults would deem a PHR useful if it provides memory support in the form of reminders, provides tools to aid in comprehension of one’s health concerns, is interactive and provides automatic functions, and is highly accessible to authorized users, yet one’s information is kept secure and private.

Cataloging the Rights Along with the Wrongs: Angry Birds

Charles Mauro provides a detailed analysis of reverse engineering an engaging interface: the Angry Birds game. For those who haven’t heard of it, Angry Birds is a wildly successful iPhone and iPad game.

The post covers:

  • the usefulness of examining existing artifacts that through their success must contain desirable attributes
  • scaffolding training
  • increasing challenge through cognitive manipulations
  • adding “mystery”  through artistic dadaist elements
  • auditory motivation
  • the importance of look-and-feel

I also enjoyed reading some of the well-thought out comments. An example from A.X. Ian:

One thing I would like to add is the superior level reset in Angry Birds. So many games fail to pay attention to the mechanics by which the user would restart the level (i.e. putting random buttons on secondary screens, unnecessary splash objects, etc.). I do not believe that it is an accident that you can quickly cut your losses and start from scratch before your brain is able to calculate the reward/punishment statistics in terms of continuing the game vs. doing something more productive.

Even in restarting the level you’re still performing a motion that does not disturb the flow. On tricky levels where birds must be all accounted for to hit the 3-star score you cannot fumble your opening shot. The pause/restart action becomes just as essential and sees heavy use. The level reset is wonderfully integrated into the game where you perform an L-shape move. It does not take your out of the game or put random screens with tons of options on it (like many others do).

Here’s the level with the pause/restart slide with dropped opacity to show the path of the finger in red arrows.

The final horizontal swipe is not necessary but it keeps you occupied for a split second. From a UX perspective it’s non-obvious to the users, but milliseconds matter and keep them in the game. In sum, it is important for mobile games to have a well-though-out restart function that feels natural and blazingly fast.


Photo credit astroot @