Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Everyday errors

Good article on the Computer Science For Fun website about research into pilot error. Includes a space invaders game that can be played on line that induces you to make errors to see if you avoid them.

Web article talks about every day errors that most of us make. The list includes

Forget your change in a shop or from a vending machine?
Forget to take the receipt?
Photocopy something then forget the original.
Forget to switch off the headlights of your car?
Forget to switch off the gas on the cooker.

People are naturally prone to make these errors because they all involve completing the thing you were trying to do: get a drink or chocolate, a photocopy, arrive at the place you were going to, cook the meal, etc. For all of these errors there was an extra thing you had to do after you had completed the main task ... and you forgot to do it. (take the change, take the receipt, switch off the headlights or the gas). Experiments have shown that these errors happen due to working memory overload combined with the structure of the task.

Early cash machines gave back the money first then the card. People regularly forgot their cards. Same error. Now, in Britain at least, the machines always give the card back first. People rarely forget their cards with the redesigned machines. Better design: human error disappears.

Andy Brazier

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