Neth, Khemlani, & Gray (2008)

Neth, H., Khemlani, S. S., & Gray, W. D. (2008). Feedback design for the control of a dynamic multitasking system: Dissociating outcome feedback from control feedback. Human Factors, 50(4), 643-651.

Feedback design for the control of a dynamic multitasking system: Dissociating outcome feedback from control feedback

Objective: We distinguish outcome feedback from control feedback to show that suboptimal performance in a dynamic multitasking system may be due to limits inherent to the information provided rather than to human resource limits. Background: Tardast (Shakeri, 2003; Shakeri & Funk, 2007) is a paradigm for investigating human multitasking behavior, complex system management, and supervisory control. Prior research attributed the suboptimal performance of Tardast operators to poor strategic task management. Methods: We varied the nature of performance feedback in the Tardast paradigm to compare continuous, cumulative feedback (global feedback) on performance outcome with feedback limited to the most recent system state (local feedback). Results: Participants in both conditions improved with practice, but those with local feedback performed better than those with global feedback. An eye-gaze analysis showed increased visual attention directed towards the feedback display in the local-feedback condition. Conclusion: Predicting performance in the control of a dynamic multitasking system requires understanding the interactions between embodied cognition, the task being performed, and characteristics of performance feedback. In the current case, at least part of what had been diagnosed as a deficit due to limited cognitive resources has been shown to be data-limited. Application: Instances of suboptimal performance do not necessarily reflect human capacity limits, but may also result from data-limits that can be alleviated by better design. Our demonstration that perfect outcome feedback can provide inadequate control feedback highlights the importance of feedback design when trying to push human performance towards the limits of bounded cognition.

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