Presenting numbers to:
teachers,
train drivers and
travellers
Having so many similarities in human functions and tasks, for teachers, train drivers and travellers, shouldn't the interfaces for these professionals be similar, not only on a lower perceptual level (readability), but on a higer cognitive level too?
Logo: IIID











Once upon a time the interface to control quantities had four options: one, two, three and many. Today we have an infinite number of words for quantities. In addition, the very same numbers are used for very different professions such as: teaching, train driving and travelling. From a psychological point of view there are many similarities in the way professionals perform these different tasks.
  • These professionals use the same eyes for perceiving written numbers and they write these numbers in the same way.

  • They all evaluate these numbers as good or bad using the same brains and more or less take the same type of decisions, for instance: increase or decrease learning speed, walking speed or train speed.

  • Even on an emotional level they act similar when it is clear that the numbers are far too low.

  • Having so many similarities in human functions and tasks, shouldn't the interfaces for these professionals be more similar, not only on the lower physiological levels (readability), but on higher cognitive levels too?
    Left, one graphical presentation.
    Three professional interpretations:
  • Learning, train, walking speed yellow: teacher, train driver or passenger no action yet but take care, you might get off target.

  • Learning, train, walking speed changing: change towards target.

  • Learning, train, walking speed measurement shaded: shaded area uncertain measurement.

  • To top.


    Task analysis

    A common professional action is comparing current student performance/train speed/walking time against a target performance/speed/time. In all cases the actions of the professionals are:

  • Perceive the current value.

  • Determine the target value.

  • Calculate the difference.

  • Make adjustments based on the reliability of the values.

  • Take into account the trend.

  •  

    Human activities:

    teacher’s
    activities,

    train driver’s 
    activities,

    traveller’s activities.






    Obtain information

     

     

    Perceive actual value:

    student’s performance now;

    train speed now;

    time now.

     

    Target value:

     

    performance level planned;

     

    train speed below safe speed and above scheduled speed;

     

    time of departure.

    Difference:

    <target; =target; >target.




    Evaluation

     

     

    Focus attention if:

    student is below target;

    speed is above safety target;

    traveller might miss his train.

    Trend, e.g.:

    mostly student catches up;

    mostly at next station driver can gain 2 minutes;

    mostly this departure is delayed.

    Reliability

    good or bad test

    speedometer error +/-5km/h

    clock incorrect.


    Action

     

     

    If >0:

    next subject to learn;

    now: slow down to save energy (next time delay departure);

    get coffee next time: stay in bed longer.

    If =0:

    next subject to learn;

    maintain speed;

    continue walking.

    If <0:

    remedial action;

    increase speed/ brake shortly

    walk faster .

    If <<0:

    call student; next time test in an earlier phase;

    brake now!;

    decide now: run fast for coffee.

    If  too much <0:

    remove student from course;

    safety system brakes;

    train missed, appointment missed.

     

    More on attention and teachers.

    More on attention and train drivers (.pdf 14 mb)

    More on attention and passengers

    To top.


    Obtain information

    Obtain information, readable numbers

    Perceptual psychology has specified how to present numbers in a readable way. This includes how to use leading zero's, capitals, underline, fonts and digitally presented characters (segment and matrix fonts). With these specifications it is easy to find the best design to present a student’s score, train speed and the time of departure.


    For all professionals leading zero's, underlining, non-serif characters and digitally characters, if possible, should not be used.Obtain information, calculate difference
    All professionals need to know the difference between current number and target number. Analysis of interfaces shows that it often is not understood that it is the computer who should perform this computing.

     
    Train driver
    Difference between current train speed (white hand, 130 km/h) and maximum train speed (white border, 150 km/h) is indicated in such a way that the high speed train driver does not need to calculate the difference (see figure immediate below).


    ETCS speed indicator
    Interface for train speed and safety, ETCS, 1995
    Traveller
    for instance, suggest the passengers should calculate time to departure. So does Netherlands Railways on this indicator immediate below.


    Keuning and Roding (2008)

    Metro and bus indicator Amsterdam Arena
    Indicator for trains and busses, Amsterdam Arena, 2008
    Time to departure for metro's, no calculation for passengers.

    Obtain information, presentation using graphics

    The conclusion of perceptual psychology is clear: human eyes and human brains are not built for processing numbers. For instance, it is easy to survive in nature without being able to notice the difference between the character 9 and the character 9.


    Cognitive psychology learns that the visual presentation of a concept should be compatible with the concepts that the user has in mind. Seven is more that one and consequently it is better to present 7 larger. However, the visual difference (form and size) between 1 and 7 is small. Content and visual compatibility can be increased presenting numbers and their relations using graphics. A graphical presentation of speeds is the best way and most commonly used, e.g. a round clock.


    Teacher

    Graphical presentation of a complex multi dimensional overview of student performance.
    Traveller

    Hurry up (graphics: orange half circle), train will depart in 30 seconds.
    Train driver
    etcs ermts mmi experimental design
    Experimental graphical design for high speed and safety information. Rookmaaker et al. 1994
    To top.


    EvaluationThe difference between the current value and the target value has to be evaluated. All professionals do this in the same way.After the evaluation action might be needed. A more detailed analysis of control of attention can be found in Verhoef (2006).

    Evaluation: no attention

    The variable is within limits. No attention required, no unexpected information, user can consult information whenever he wants.


    Teacher

    Performance learning aim: counting

    Bill

     

     

     

    to 5

     

     

     

    to 10

     

     

     

    to 15

     

     

     

    to 20

     

     

     

    to 100

     

     

     

    Pupil Bill passed the test (green background) and acquired the learning aim counting to 100 (Teacher examples here are simplifications of a more complex Learning Object Control System).

    Train driver
    ETCS, indication: braking will be needed shortly.
    No problem, current speed below braking curve.
    Traveller
    Public transport indicator, board shortly.
    No hurry, you will catch your train.
     

    Evaluation: attention shortly!


    The variable has reached a level at which attention is required within a short period of time.


    Teacher

    Performance learning aim: counting

     

    George

     

     

     

    to 5

     

     

     

    to 10

     

     

     

    to 15

     

     

     

    to 20

     

     

     

    to 100

     

     

    Pupil George's performance not ok (yellow background), yet, but acceptable.

    Traindriver
    ETCS, indication trainspeed ok.
    Train speed OK now, but braking required within a few moments.
    Traveller
    Public transport indicator, board shortly.
    Sufficient time, go to train from this point(30 sec.), but too little time left for buying coffee.
     

    Evaluation: attention now!


    The variable has reached a level which is not ok, unacceptable, action now!

     

    Teacher

    Performance learning aim: counting

     

     

    John

     

     

     

     to 5

     

     

     

     to 10

     

     

     

     to 15

     

     

     

     to 20

     

     

     

     to 100

     

    Pupil John's performance insufficient (yellow background), remedial action is needed immediately before proceeding.
    Train driver
    ETCS, indication: braking will be needed shortly.
    Train speed is too high, train might pass next signal at danger, brake now!
    Traveller
    Public transport indicator, board now!
    Train will depart shortly (10 seconds), run now!
     

    Evaluation: game over


    The variable exceeded it's acceptable level. Despite warnings no action has been taken by the professional. Disaster occurs.
    Teacher

    Performance learning aim: counting

     

     

     

    Mary

     

     

     

    to 5

     

     

     

    to 10

     

     

     

    to 15

     

     

     

    to 20

     

     

     

    to 100

    Pupil Mary will not finish this course (red backgrounds). She has to start again or abort this course.

    Train driver
    ETCS, indication: braking will be needed shortly.
    The train will pass the signal at danger. However, probably the train's safety system performs a system safety stop. The system assumes that the driver is incapable of performing his task. The ticket collector checks the driver.
    Traveller
    Public transport indicator, sufficient time for boarding.
    Train departed 1 minute ago without the passenger.
    To top.


    Next step

    The examples given were from real live projects and had to take account of traditional practice and available technology. We only could show that the interfaces for these professionals are similar in the way colour was used to control attention.When designed from a psychological top, to a professional bottom, there would be much more similarities between interfaces for different professionals.Finding these similarities would reduce interface design effort substantially. However, this will not lead to unemployment of designers. So far the tasks discussed were one dimensional. There is one dimension of learning objects, only a safe train speed is taken into account and the traveller focuses only on catching this train. Tasks are becoming more and more complex and so will the interfaces supporting professionals performing their task.
     
    Teachers
    Teaching arithmetic is not sufficient anymore. The pupil has to be taught to do it in a creative way and in harmony with other pupils.
    Train driver
    Driving safely is not the only aim of a train driver. There also is a timetable and he should keep energy consumption low.
        Travellers
    The number of routes and options for a specific public transport trip increases too as well as the options for payment, price and services.
    Control of attention in in daily life


    Psychological basis for control of attention
    To top.


    References

    Keuning en Roding, (2008). DRIS: lezen en wegwezen, Verkeerskunde, no 4, 27 mei.

    Rookmaaker, D.P., Verhoef, L.W.M., Vorderegger, J.R. & Maessen, E.J.M., (1994). The presentation of speed control information of ETCS train drivers, Paris, in: SNCF Dir. de la Recherche, pag. 959-964, in: World Congress on Railway Research.http://www.humanefficiency.nl/etcs/etcs-dmi.php

    Verhoef, L.W.M. (2006). GUI, webontwerp, psychologie en human efficiency. Utrecht: Human Efficiency. book in Dutch: www.humanefficiency.nl/gui.php course in English: www.humanefficiency.nl/course.php

    Verhoef, L.W.M. (2009). Why designers cant understand their users; developing a systematic approach using cognitive psychology. Utrecht, Human Efficiency.  www.humanefficiency.nl/designers_understanding.php

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