J. Raymond Comstock Jr.
NASA Langley Research Center
Peter L. Derks
College of William and Mary
In an era of increasing automation, it is important to design displays and input devices that minimize human error. In this context, information concerning the human response to the detection of incongruous information is important. Such incongruous information can be operationalized as unexpected (perhaps erroneous) information on which a decision by the human or operation by an automated system is based. In the aviation environment, decision-making when faced with inadequate, incomplete, or incongruous information may occur in a failure scenario.
An additional challenge facing the human operator in automated environments is maintaining alertness or vigilance ( Comstock, Harris, & Pope, 1988). The vigilance issue is of particular concern as a factor that may interact with performance when faced with inadequate, incomplete, or incongruous information. From the literature on eye-scan behavior we know that the time spent looking at a particular display or indicator is a function of the type of information one is trying to discern from the display ( Harris, Glover, & Spady, 1986). For example, quick glances are all it takes for confirming that an indicator is in a normal position or range, whereas a continuous look of several seconds may be required for confirmation that a complex control input is having the desired effect. Important to consider is that while an extended look takes place, visual input from other sources may be missed. Much like an extended look, the interpretation of incongruous information may require extra time.
The present experiment was designed to explore the performance consequences of a decision making task when incongruous information was presented. For this experiment a display incongruity was created on a subset of trials of a clock reading laboratory task. Display incongruity was made possible through presentation of "impossible" times (e.g. 1:65 or 11:90). Subjects made "same" "different" decisions and keyboard responses to pairings of Analog-Analog (AA), Digital-Digital (DD), and Analog-Digital (AD), display combinations. For trials during which display incongruities were not presented, based on prior research ( Miller & Penningroth, 1997) comparing digital and analog clock displays, it would be expected that the Digital-Digital condition would result in the shortest response times and the Analog-Analog and Analog-Digital conditions would have longer response times. The performance consequence expected on trials with incongruous times would be very long response times.
Twenty university students participated in the experiment. The median age of the subjects was 21.5 years, and there were 10 male and 10 female subjects. All subjects reported normal or corrected to normal vision. Subjects were paid for their participation in the experiment.