By Francis T. Durso, Raymond S. Nickerson, Susan T. Dumais, Stephan Lewandowsky, Timothy J. Perfect
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That is, when a task that is formerly done manually is given over to a computer, memory for the skill relevant to the task declines and people tend to become over-reliant on the computer, sometimes not bothering to check the computer results manually. I had noticed the same phenomenon in such diverse domains as my kids using an electronic calculator, myself using a spell checker in a word processing program, airline pilots using the autopilot in commercial aircraft, and control room personnel going through an “electronic check list” in a power plant.
I wrote in 1995 on what I called Ecological Task Analysis, a technique for specifying the environmental support for, and impediments to, fluent behavior. [This article showed] that the presence of perceptual information that did a good job of specifying the environmental constraints on behavior facilitated skill acquisition. (Alex Kirlik) [Kirlik 1995] Operators engaged in complex, dynamic situations often rely on simple perceptual heuristics to guide behavior. Kirlik et al. (1996) wondered whether specifically training simple perceptual and pattern-recognition heuristics would help performance in a complex task.
The dependent measures were how quickly the brakes could be applied in response to the pace car’s brakes, the distance between the pace car and the driver, speed, and how quickly participants could recover speed lost during braking. The results showed that drivers who were conversing and driving took longer to brake and longer to recover lost speed, but they also had longer following distance than participants who were not conversing on a cell phone. Interestingly, older adults’ driving was not more affected by hand-free conversations than younger adults’.