Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Thoughts on Difference between Interpersonal Trust and Trust in Automated Cars

January 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Self-driving cars are widely discussed now. Whereas we are not sure when autonomous cars will come as product on our streets, it seems just a matter of time. Technology develops fast, bringing continuously higher intelligent driver assistant systems into the vehicles. Maybe the development goes even faster than some people imagine or like to think. Rather than technology maybe people need time to adjust to this fast development. Would you today assign the task of carrying you safely from destination A to B to a self-driving car? How would it react in case of an accident? Trust is an important keyword. What makes us trust something or someone?

Before a system can be designed with a characteristic called “trust” it is necessary to understand what trust means, for a designer and for a user. Most important is to understand the meaning from a user’s perspective, because that is characteristic of the system that a designer wants that the user “feels” when interacting with the system. A starting point can be interpersonal trust, meaning trust between humans towards each other. Trust is a base for long term relationships with other people. We have no problem to confess to them, or to ask for help. We also have expectations on them, e.g. when we ask for help to be helped, or a certain level of politeness in conversation whatever we say. When we are interacting with computers it seems we apply certain concepts of conversation to that interaction as well. In literature trust is described as a multifaceted concept dependent on a range of factors. Trust requires time to develop, but is easy to lose. There are short-cuts in interpersonal trust, e.g. when someone makes a confession and so seems to be vulnerable, then he/she makes it easier for another person to develop trust or when a group of people works towards a shared goal. Both shortcuts are not implemented in current systems of automation. Systems do not have intentions, so characteristics that we apply to other humans, such as loyalty and benevolence, do not apply.

Research suggests that etiquette in dialogue design could lead to an increased level of trust. If an interaction could apply politeness (if the user is doing the requested task, it does not need an additional notice of the system to ask for a task to be done) and be non-interruptive (the system should ask for one task at a time) that leads to a higher level of trust into the system. Other researcher suggested to design a personality into the system. It does not need to be a 3D modelled avatar. A personality could simply be built from a voice, a certain accent, and a certain use of language. The more similar accent and language are to the user, the better the trust develops. People like to trust things similar to themselves. On a general level, developing such a personality not only could make decisions from the automation more comprehensible for a user, but it also makes it easier to trust the system. People tend to be more forgiving to other people than to machines.

Trust in automation has additional quality aspects than interpersonal trust, rooted in the design of the system, such as reliability, and a low rate of false alarms. We need to find out how to merge those requirements into a suitable system design for the everyday driver.

A big challenge will be to make limitations of automation, the right level of trust, understandable for the everyday user. The right level of trust means to provide the user with an understanding when to use the system or when not (boundaries of an automated system could be adverse weather conditions, e.g. snow, fog, or heavy rain). Of course cars are not the first area with highly automated systems, but everyday transportation involves a different challenge than to simply adapt lessons learned from aviation or power plant design as in those areas is highly trained personnel interacting with the automated system. The everyday user is not highly trained, and likely does not wish to know technical details.



Parasuraman, Raja & Miller, Christopher, “Trust and etiquette in high-criticality automated systems”, 2004

Reeves, Byron & Nass, Clifford, “The media equation – How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places”

Miller, Christopher, “Trust in adaptive automation: the role of etiquette in tuning trust via analogic and affective methods”

Lee, John & See, Katrina, “Trust in automation: designing for appropriate reliance”

Hoffman, Robert, Matthew, Johnson, & Bradshaw, Jeffrey, “Trust in automation”, 2013

Litman, Todd, “Autonomous vehicle implementation predictions – Implications for transport planning”, 2015

Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre “Automated vehicles: what the public thinks”, 2014


Information Rich Display Design

October 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Since some time I loaned a book from the library: Edward Tufte’s “Beautiful evidence”. It still awaits me reading it. In the meantime I stumbled over a paper which integrates graphic design rules into the design of process displays used in plants. Plants means all different kinds of plants, ranging from central operating units of oil platforms, to wind energy parks to nuclear power plants. These structures have in common that they have a room from which their process is centrally monitored and coordinated. Mostly it is done nowadays via displays presented on monitors. The information presented on the monitor is specifically designed for that purpose. What you see at once on the screen is called a display, process display if it is showing information about the plant.

Purpose of the displays is to condense interconnected information on a small area. Usually there are more than hundred displays overall presenting information about the plant’s processes. Their difficult purpose is to support the operator in their manifold tasks. During normal operation, meaning monitoring of the process without any noteworthy occurrences, the operator’s task is comparable to that of an analyst. The operator examines the situation and attempts to get knowledge by comparing the current situation with similar patterns from similar situations. It is a slowly paced task requiring rather overview information. If something goes wrong the operator’s task switches to that of a firefighter. Then they need specific easy to pick-up information. The different tasks can be associated with the mental processing levels defined by Rasmussen: skills, rules (task of a fire fighter) and knowledge (task as analyst).

The difficult task of the display designer is to provide the operator with suitable displays supporting them in all their tasks. The traditional process display design has the following disadvantages:

  • different information need of the operator: – in normal situations better to present the information condensed but in stressful situations only the information needed, as information processing is narrowed only a limited amount is taken in – information on the display that does not belong to the task needs to be avoided
  • Problem of interconnected information that is visualised in small parts is the keyhole effect (think of the more than 100 displays overall to show the process of the plant). It means only a part of the process information is displayed at once. Mental effort is required to stitch the information correctly together.
  • Thick lines and vibrant colours are commonly used to show static information, while the valuable dynamic information is “hidden” in this cluttered design
  • A typical VDU process control display format consists of typically 10-40 valuable dynamic data points, compared with good design within other areas such as medicine, statistics and cartography this is low

The proposed information rich display design guide applies rules from other areas that must deal with huge amounts of information like cartography and statistics. The disadvantages listed above point already to one improvement – it seems possible to integrate more information relevant data into the displays without overloading the displays. If more information can be presented at once the “keyhole effect” of seeing only a fraction of the process could be reduced and also the need for navigation.

The proposed principle is called Dull Display Principle, simply meaning to weigh information by colour (I would see is as part of the “Gestalt Laws”). Usually a display contains static information which help to identify the process parts shown. That is connecting lines representing pipes or electrical connections and e.g. outlines of a pump or water storage tank. According to the Dull Display approach this static information is presented in different shades of grey. In contrast dynamic information which needs urgent action is presented in bright saturated colours like red and yellow. So different visual layers are created which emphasise the urgent information and make it easy identifiable even if there are many elements on the display. Below you can see an example. The left Figure shows a traditional process display design. The right Figure one designed following IRD. The colour in the right Figure represents the medium (blue – water, dark green – oil and green – gas). Left traditional process display Right process display in IRD design

Further the IRD approach aims to integrate the knowledge need of the operators. Whereas it is known that experienced operators monitor parameters over time using trend plots (diagrams with past values of a parameter) instead of reading exact process parameters, they are so far kept on separate displays. The proposed design approach foresees to integrate mini trends in the process displays. A single value only shows the current state of the parameter, you have to watch carefully to recognise a trend, if the parameter is increasing or decreasing, if it changes at all. A trend, in contrast, easily shows the direction of change in the position of the line. The Figure below shows such a mini trend.

Mini trend for process displaysSources:

Alf Ove Braseth, Oystein Veland and Robin Welch (2004). “Information Rich Display Design”. Forth American Nuclear Society International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Plant Instrumentation, Controls and Human-Machine Interface Technologies (NPIC&HMIT 2004), Columbus, Ohio, September, 2004

Alf Ove Brasth, Ville Nurmilaukas and Jari Laarni (2009). “Realizing the information rich design for the LOVIISA Nuclear Power Plant”. Sixth American Nuclear Society International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Plant Instrumentation, Control, and Human-Machine Interface Technologies NPIC&HMIT 2009, Knoxville, Tennessee, April 5-9, 2009, on CD-ROM, American Nuclear Society, LaGrange Park, IL (2009)

Training of interpreting facial expressions

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Seven basic emotional expressions are the same independent from the culture:

smile, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, anger, scorn

Paul Ekman proved it as he brought photos from everywhere over the world with similar facial expressions for those emotions. This is also true for the natives living in the deep of the rainforest with nearly no contact to the western civilisation. He and a colleague studied each muscle in the face and evaluated its influence on the mimic. So they defined mimic movements executed by one or more muscles, so-called Action Units. On a higher level the action units are then combined to expressions of emotions. Beside facial expression the whole body and the voice contribute to emotional expression as well.

Other emotional expressions and gestures then the ones listed on top are cultural dependent.

With a bit of training everybody can learn to identify subtle facial expressions in your conversation partner. Mostly they flash within parts of a second over the face. The unconscious part of our brain is nevertheless fast interpreting them. Evolutionary it has the background that it is very helpful to interpret e.g. the expression of a wild animal as soon as possible. In some situations it is  a question of live or death. The training helps to transform the indefinite gut feeling into knowledge. As good as one might get be aware that you only find out the facial expression but not its cause. Further signs from body language and voice contribute to an emotional expression as well. Those signs combined can influence on how you proceed with your conversation and therewith contribute to find the cause of the emotion.

I did not try the training personally but if you are interessted you can find information here:

Categories: Psychology Tags:

Postures affect emotion

Postures affect emotion, this has now been supported with evidence by a study at the UCL. If we feel confident and happy we tend to use open postures that use much space. On the other hand if we feel insecure and powerless we have close postures. Maybe for the most of you this is clear as body postures are a main topic of body language experts and part of courses with strategies for more powerful presentation.

postures and emotion

This study’s focus is if those powerful positive postures affect emotion of a person if the person performs those postures. Participants took part in the experiment without knowing the right reason to do not affect the measurements. If we won something or got a reward the testosterone level increases. The testosterone level is an indicator for a feeling of positive powerful emotion and was measured as variable. The test setting foresees tow groups of participants. One group with the powerful postures and the other the reverse postures. The assistants brought the participants into the correct postures. Then the postures were kept for about one minute. After each posture the participants filled out a questionnaire indicating their emotional state. About about 17 min after the complete test the participants gave a probe of saliva to analyse the testosterone level. The analysis showed an increased level of testosterone for the participants with the powerful postures.

Find more information in this link.

It would be interesting to do this study with body movements from the active exercise therapy.

You can practise powerful postures yourself with some tips from Samy Molcho (an expert for body language):

  •     balance your weight equally on both feet
  •     make your shoulders relaxed and let them fall behind
  •     put your chin high, about the same height as the jaw
  •     put your chest high
Categories: Psychology Tags:

Tool to avoid the carpal tunnel syndrome

April 21, 2013 1 comment

The carpal tunnel is a tunnel out of connective tissue between the bony forearm and hand. Through it go nerves, such as for movement of the fingers and haptic feedback of the hand. While using the mouse the wrist is strongly bended, causing a contraction of this nerve channel and over longer time nerves get damaged. Following effects are e.g. pain during and after use of the mouse, pain specifically at night (if the body rests) and decreased fine motor skills. Effects must be taken serious as they worsen with time and lead from an inflammation of the nerve in the beginning to permanent nerve damage.

A company brought a new product on the market for help. The product’s name is KAKUM. It looks like a mini sunlounger for the hand and meant to be flexible adjustable according to the supplier. Through its roundness it avoids the bend of the wrist and therewith avoids blockage of the carpal tunnel. Further on according to the supplier the material are of such a type that the device easily moves along the hand-movements when interacting with the mouse. This would also be an advantage of KAKUM compared to mouse-pads with wrist support. Source of the image is Yanko Design , here you also find more information about KAKUM.

KAKUM wrist support for mouse use

Yanko Design KAKUM wrist support for mouse use

Other means to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome are e.g. small tools reminding computer users to take breaks, mouse pads with wrist support, a trackball and regular training of the hand.

Breaks are not only to rest your hand but also your eyes. One of those tools is the freeware program Workrave. After a specified timeframe it reminds you to take a break from computer work. The duration of a break is adjustable from mini-breaks to longer breaks like lunch time. It offers the possibility to show exercises during the breaks. Download Workrave here.

Mouse pads with wrist support are bound to a small radius of mouse use (not suitable e.g. for a graphic designer who uses the mouse in wider space). They are not adjustable in height which makes them, speaking from my experience, sometimes uncomfortable.

A trackball is different to use. Similar to a mouse you lay your hands on the ergonomic shaped device. On the right side or directly in the middle you find a ball (more or less looking out of the device).  When the fingertips move the balls the mouse scrolls over the screen. Ensure that sensitiveness of scrolling is adjustable to your needs – not to sensitive scrolling but also not too hard. Some people like to have a scroll wheel at the trackball. It is known from a usual mouse and comfortable while reading a lot of text.

Trackball - example from Logitech

Trackball – example from Logitech

Hearing images for blind people

January 6, 2013 1 comment

There are different tools to help blind people orientate in the environment one of the latest is an Iphone application where the user uploads photos, asks a question about their content, e.g. which of the cans does contain sweet corn, and gets an answer by  a community of people. It is a nice idea but it strongly relates on the goodwill and time of other people. If urgent help is needed there must be other ways.

Research found some options to transfer visual information into acoustic. Quality and quantity of transferred data cannot be the same as the human perceives much more information through visual perception than through acoustic. However it can provide information about the position of objects, their distance and size.

A tool comes as glass. Over an integrated camera images of the environment are sent to a small computer-chip which transfers defined brightness values and contrasts into high and deep tones.  Such a device is developed e.g. at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and also at a University in Spain. The Spanish system seems to be reduced transferring the visual information to a series of clicks.

It might not give more information than echolocation, but it has the advantage that it is not immediately visible to others. Echolocation for humans is similar to that used by dolphins or bats. A click-sound is made and information of how it is reflected from the environment gives information about surrounding objects.  With the hearing glasses blinds can perceive the information unnoticed from others. A reason for some blind not using the echolocation is that it makes them different from other people and they find it embarrassing to make click-sounds for orientation. Plus, the glasses also work in 2D, e.g. photos or if text recognition is implemented also for viewing products in a store.

After about 70 hours training the software can be used. The brain learned to interpret specific acoustic information not as acoustic but as visual information and form images. It also works for natural born blind. Like the multidimensional acoustic impression of an orchestra sample it is imaginable to present foreground and background of the visual environment.

For more information:

Categories: Psychology Tags:

Natural Signalling Theory

Operators in a call center rely on their selling skills, convincing people to buy a specific product. A new measuring device made obvious that convincing is not dependent on logical arguments rather than subtle signals transmitted in the voice. After a several minutes successful calls could be predicted. The device tracked pitch and tone, not words or logic of the communication. Successful operators speak less and listen a lot. When they do speak, their voices fluctuate strongly in amplitude and pitch, suggesting interest and responsiveness to the customer’s needs.

The measuring devices are integrated in the clothes or eyeglasses, developed at the Human Dynamics Group at the MIT, led by Alex Pentland. The device tracks the position, upper body movement, pitch and tone of voice of the person. Analyses like the one above show that human behaviour is not dependent on meaning and reasoning as mostly expected. The statement “what is said matters not how it is said” can easily be flawed by subtle indicators: voice, body language, rhythm of workspace, time spent on tasks and patterns of social networks. Complex social behaviour of animals shows that language is not a pre-condition for social behaviour. Animals communicate their behaviour via subtle signals.

Subtle signals have a wide range of influence, e.g. the decision of managers, team functions and decisions and the establishment of social networks in the organization. Often the underlying network of personal interactions is forgotten or hidden by the organizational structure. But its health or dysfunction can determine the effectiveness of a team or organization as it represents the flow of information, e.g. two groups on whose information sharing the companies welfare depends might have difficulties and communicate just over one person (bottleneck).

Those testable devices help to evaluate person-to-person relationships, the social network structure beneath the organizational structure. Formerly network analysts relied on questionnaires, it was not possible to hide in a corner and observe the “real communication”, also the number of tracked behaviour indicators is enhanced with the device. Other areas of application are early detection of burn out, advanced testing of new products, search the fitting position for new employees, as learning device for managers improving their persuasiveness and as medical device for people with depression. In all cases privacy of the data has to be ensured and adequate methods therefore be developed.

Categories: Psychology Tags: