Investigators designed a prototype of a hybrid aid for medical equipment maintenance tasks, while at the same time building a library of tools to create similar aids for other procedures. Second, they developed a taxonomy of cognitive aid design that considers the most important variables affecting performance with aids: user knowledge and experience, time pressure on performance, task criticality, and the number of operators expected to interact with the aid.
Experiment 1 examined the effects of sensory resource conflict by manipulating which resources were demanded by the task (visual, auditory) and which were demanded by the aid (visual, auditory). The amount of resource conflict did not have as much of an effect as the sensory modality of the aid: the visual cognitive aid outperformed the auditory aid no matter what the modality of the task. A follow-up experiment allowed operators to interact with the aid by speaking, to make interaction with the auditory aid more natural. The results replicated the first experiment with the visual aid supporting the highest performance from operators.
In the second experiment, operators were randomly assigned to use the aid alone or in a team of two. For part of the task, participants performed under time pressure and for part they experienced no time pressure (task sections were counterbalanced). Time pressure adversely affected the accuracy of single operators but not teams. Time to complete the task varied greatly. Dependence on the cognitive aid was high, but did not significantly vary according to the conditions. Participants who scored highly on conscientiousness ratings also scored their team more highly on teamwork ratings. Workload is increased by time pressured environments, even when operators can rely on others and even when a cognitive aid is in place. When designing an emergency aid, minimalistic design should be applied to not overload an already high cognitive load. Aid design should incorporate elements that promote elements of conscientiousness, which will require further research to ascertain.
In the third experiment, an extreme age groups design was utilized to understand the best way to design an aid when spatial resources are low or reduced. Analysis showed age differences in performance, with younger adults making fewer initial errors, fewer changes, and completing the task faster than older adults. Spatial ability was analyzed separately and found to be related to performance measures: those who score better on spatial ability measures were more likely to make fewer errors and complete the task faster.
In each of these experiments, the design of the HAT was iterated resulting in a final prototype used for the validation study with participants from Johnson Space Center. In the validation study, the type of task and aid was manipulated, where the HAT-created cognitive aid was compared to a traditional static aid. Operators performed better when given the HAT-created cognitive aid compared to the static aid on all tasks, however they rated it as less usable. Usability data showed that this was likely because participants perceived the static procedure to be more simple to interact with but that when using it, they were unaware the were committing errors. The results of this validation study established the effectiveness of the interactive cognitive aid and suggested design changes that were later iterated into the software.
The literature review focused on cognitive aid research published in the last twenty years. General findings were that the literature on cognitive aids is vast and split across many domains, with mixed findings regarding aid effectiveness, proper design, and even nomenclature. In this review, we bring together these disparate findings and organize them at their most basic level: which cognitive processes do the aid need to support? Which processes do they support? Such processes included cognitive, perceptual, communication, and higher-order processes. Support of these processes could serve two goals: directly affecting the outcome of the task or indirectly affecting the outcome by making the cognitive aid more effective. This divided research studies on cognitive aids into those which introduced a direct support and those which introduced a usability change to the aid itself, which then affected the outcome of the task. Emergent themes for these articles are discussed, the empirical articles listed for future potential meta-analysis, and gaps in the literature summarized.
Last, the review presented the design-related variables for cognitive aids in a design taxonomy, based on the empirical literature and provide a process for using the taxonomy in planning/designing new cognitive aids. These variables included task criticality, operator experience level, number of operators, and presence or absence of time pressure.
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