Gray, W. D. (2000)

Gray, W. D. (2000). The nature and processing of errors in interactive behavior. Cognitive Science, 24(2), 205-248.

The Nature and Processing of Errors in Interactive Behavior

Understanding the nature of errors in a simple, rule-based task -- programming a VCR -- required analyzing the interactions among human cognition, the artifact, and the task. This analysis was guided by least-effort principles and yielded a control structure that combined a device-task rule-hierarchy with display-based difference-reduction. A model based on this analysis was used to trace action protocols collected from participants as they programmed a simulated VCR. Trials that ended without success (the show was not correctly programmed) were interrogated to yield insights regarding problems in acquiring the control structure. For successful trials (the show was correctly programmed), steps that the model would make were categorized as matches to the model; steps that the model would not make were violations of the model. The model was able to trace the vast majority of correct keystrokes and yielded a business-as-usual account of the detection and correction of errors. Violations of the model fell into one of two fundamental categories. The model provided insights into certain subcategories of errors; whereas, regularities within other subcategories of error suggested limitations to the model. Although errors were rare when compared to the total number of correct actions, they were important. Problems with just 4% of the keypresses would have prevented two-thirds of the shows from being successfully recorded. A misprogrammed show is a minor annoyance to the user. However, devices with the approximate complexity of a VCR are ubiquitous and have found their way into emergency rooms, airplane cockpits, power plants, and so on. Errors of ignorance may be reduced by training; however, errors in the routine performance of skilled users can only be reduced by design.

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Please note that the copyright of this article is owned by the Cognitive Science Society and that the publisher of the Cognitive Science journal is Elsevier.

If you found this page because you are interested in the subject of human error, be sure to check out some of my other work:

Gray, W. D., Sabnani, H., & Kirschenbaum, S. S. (1993). "Human Error," by James Reason. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 39(6), 1051–1057.

Gray, W. D. (2004). Errors in interactive behavior. In W. S. Bainbridge (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 230-235): Berkshire Publishing Group

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