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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

July 26, 2000 Contact: Margaret McCarthy, (312) 996-8279, mmm@uic.edu


A recent study found that automated decision aids - like those designed to reduce human error in aircraft cockpits, nuclear plants and intensive care units - can actually make people more prone to new types of errors.

"There has been considerable documentation of the fact that people tend to be 'cognitive misers,'" said Linda Skitka, associate professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "That is, most people will take the road of least cognitive effort, rather than systematically analyze each decision." Automated decision aids may be used as a replacement for more vigilant decision making and people may feel less compelled to put forth a strong individual effort when they have these kinds of decision aids, according to Skitka.

Skitka used a basic flight simulator to study 80 student volunteers carrying out tasks in her lab at UIC. Research participants were trained that their instruments would always be correct. Half of the participants also had the help of an automated decision aid that was described as highly, but not perfectly reliable. Participants who worked only with instrument readings made fewer errors in performing the flight task than those who had a computerized decision aid.

This study could have an enormous impact on the design and training related to automated decision aids.

"The work that Dr. Skitka and her collaborators have performed gives the designer of such systems a view to the likely use of that automation - and potentially its unintended consequences," said Kevin Corker, associate professor of computer information and system engineering at San Jose State University and former NASA Ames Research Center program director. "Her investigation provides guidance in the design and in the training for the use of the automated systems that are integral to national airspace and space flight missions."

"Although the presence of automation in most work settings has many benefits, it remains important to carefully evaluate the consequences of introducing automated aids into complex or even not so complex decision-making environments," said Skitka.

The complete study is available online at www.idealibrary.com on IDEAL.

With 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest and most diverse university in the Chicago area. UIC is home to the largest medical school in the United States and is one of only 88 national Research I universities. Located just west of Chicago's Loop, UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological, and cultural fabric of the area.

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