Study guide with articlesummaries for Applied Cognitive Psychology at Leiden University - 2023/2024

Articlesummaries with Applied Cognitive Psychology at Leiden University

Table of content

  • Information Processing
  • Interaction Design, beyond Human Computer Interaction
  • Perceptual selectivity for color and form
  • The complexity of failure: Implications of complexity theory for safety investigations
  • Intelligence gathering post-9/11
  • How can humans understand their automated cars?
Check supporting content in full:
Information Processing (Chapter 4) - Wickens & Carswell - 2012 - Article

Information Processing (Chapter 4) - Wickens & Carswell - 2012 - Article


Introduction

In many situations, humans interact with systems. During these interactions, the operator must perceive information and transform information into different forms. Sometimes these transformations lead to errors. Understanding these transformations and thus understanding information processing, is important for predicting and modeling human-system interactions.

Three approaches to information processing

There are three distinct approaches to information processing: the classic stage-based approach; the ecological approach and cognitive engineering or ergonomics.

The classic stage-based approach

In this approach, the digital computer is used as a metaphor to human behavior. Information is seen as passing through a number of discrete stages. So, there is a distinction between a perceptual stage and a stage of execution and action, which is based on the morphological distinctions between perceptual and motor cortex. Proof for this approach comes from the fact that different tasks and environmental factors have a different influence on different stages. Within this approach, processing does not always start at stage 1: sometimes processing starts when someone gives a response.

The ecological approach

This approach places more emphasis on the integrated flow of information through the human rather than making a distinction between stages. It also emphasizes the interaction between humans and the environment. This approach is most relevant to describing human behavior in interaction with the natural environment, so it is used most when designing controls and displays that mimic characteristics of the natural environment. 

The cognitive engineering approach

This approach is a hybrid of the stage-based and ecological approach. On the one hand, it is based on a very careful understanding of the environment and tasks constraints within which an operator works. On the other hand, this approach places great emphasis on modeling and understanding the knowledge structures that expert operators have of the domain.

Selecting information

Broadbent's book lead to that human information processing is now seen as part of a filtering process. This filtering happens through mechanisms of human attention. Attention has three different modes: selective attention, focused attention and divided attention.

Selective attention

Selective attention refers to how attention is focused on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time. It is influenced by four factors: salience, effort, expectancy and value. So, selective attention dictates where attention is given to.

Focused attention

Focused attention is used to maintain processing of the desired sources and avoid the distracting influence of potentially competing stimuli.

Divided attention

This is the ability to process more than on attribute or element of the environment at a given time.

Visual search

When people are looking for something in a cluttered environment (for instance when they are looking for a sign by the roadway), they use selective and focused attention as well as discrimination. Visual search models are used to predict the time that is required to find a target. These predictions can be very important for safety and productivity.

The most simple model of visual search is the 'serial self-terminating model'. In this model, it states that search space is filled with items of which most are nontargets (so, distractors). The mean time to find a target is modeled to be RT = NT/2. N is the number of items in the space and T is the time that is needed to examine each item and determine that it is not a target before moving on to the next. This model is influenced by three factors: bottom-up parallel processing, top-down processing and target familiarity. Bottom-up processing is about that for example all targets are 'highlighted',  so that searching for these targets is easier. Top-down processing is about how the operator's knowledge or expectations influence the information processing. For example, location expectancy will create search strategies that scan the most likely locations first. Another influence is the expectancy of whether a target will be present or not. This is called the 'target prevalence rate'. A third factor that influences visual search is target familiarity: this means that repeated exposures to the same consistent target can speed the search for that target and reduce the likelihood that the target may be missed.

Perception and data interpretation

The Signal Detection Theory 

When designing displays, it is very important that critical targets must be detectable in the environment. However, assuring this detectability can be difficult. It is often the case that changes in a scene are missed. However, sometimes it is also the case that people respond as if they saw something, while there was no target. This is called a false alarm. The SDT provides a framework for describing the processes that can lead to both types of errors. 

Expectancy, context and identification

Prior knowledge can also influence the ability to identify enormous numbers of objects. For example, it seems that objects and attributes are recognized more quickly when they are embedded in consistent contexts, rather than when they are presented alone or in different, inconsistent contexts. For example, words are more easily identified when they are embedded in sentences, compared to when words are presented alone.

Judgments of Two-Dimensional Position and Extent

Spatial judgements that are required to read even everyday graphs, are prone to systematic distortions. A few examples of these distortions are that people overestimate the values that are represented in bar graphs; perceptual flattening of line graphs with respect to the y-axis, which results in larger underestimations of the represented data as the reader follows the line from its origin; cyclic patterns of bias in estimations of part- whole relationships that are dependent on the number of available reference points on the graphs; distance distortions between cursor locations and target/icon locations induced by the shape of the cursor.

Judgments of Distance and Size in Three-Dimensional Space

There are five kinds of cues that help during perception:

When making judgements in spaces, human perception depends on different cues that provide information about the relative or absolute distance from the viewer. Many of these cues are called pictorial cues, because they cues can be used to generate the impression of depth in 2D pictures.

Next to pictorial cues, there are five cues that have to do with characteristics of the viewer: Motion parallax: this refers to that objects moving at a constant speed across the frame will appear to move an greater amount if they are closer to an observer than they would if they were at a greater distance. Binocular disparity: this refers to the difference in viewpoint of the two eyes. Stereopsis: this is the use of binocular disparity to perceive depth (think about 3D displays). Accommodation and binocular convergence: these cues result from the natural adjustment of the eyes that is needed to focus on specific objects at different distances. 

Comprehension and cognition

Working Memory limitations

There is a limited number of ideas, sounds and images that we can maintain and use in our mind. For example, the items in the working memory are lost when they are not repeated. This is called the memory span. Baddeley developed a four-part model of the working memory, which includes two temporary storage systems: the phonological loop and visuospatial sketchpad. These subsystems are used by a central executive, which manipulates the information in these stores and creates multimodal representations of coherent objects. These representations are then held in an episodic buffer. 

Knowledge about the working memory has some implications for design:

Whenever possible, try to avoid codes that are too long for the memory capacity; when it is necessary to use codes that exceed this limits, use methods such as parsing material into lower units (chunking); because information from working memory is lost after a few seconds, systems should be designed in such a way that they can use the information (think about voice menu systems: in these cases, the users should be able to make a choice immediately); the need to scan should be minimized if a person must hold spatial information in the sketchpad; avoid the need to transfer information from one subsystem into the other before further transformations or integrations can be made; if working memory subsystems are updated too rapidly, old information may interfere with new; interference in working memory is most likely when-to-be remember information is similar in either meaning or sound; the capacity of working memory varies between people.

Planning and problem solving

In contrast with cognitive activities that are heavily driven by information the environment, the information-processing tasks of planning and problem solving are more dependent on the interplay between information that is available in the long-term memory and information-processing transformations carried out in working memory. 

Planning

Planning can depend on two types of cognitive operations: planners may depends on scripts that they have stored in their long-term memory which are based on past experience; planning may involve guess work and some level of mental stimulation of future activities.

Problem solving, diagnosis and troubleshooting

These three activities are related to each other: they all have in common that there is a goal to be obtained by the human operator, that information to achieve that goal is currently missing and that some physical action or mental operation must be taken to seek these entities. 

Metacognition 

The term metacognition refers to a person's knowledge about his or her own cognitive processes and the use of this information to regulate performance. Education is the most active area of research on metacognition: researchers have looked at how students' beliefs about their own information-processing capabilities influence learning strategies and ultimate academic success.

Most researchers make a distinction between metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive control processes. 

Action selection

In the stage of action selection and execution, it is important to look at the speed with which information is processed from perception to action. This speed is described in 'bandwidth': the amount of information processed per unit time. Units of information is described in bits.

Findings related to action selection

Response times for either rule-or skill based behavior is longer when there are more possible choices. 

When people do not expect certain stimuli, they may respond more slowly. 

Practice leads to that frequent events will be responded to more rapidly, but also expertise (and thus practice) in something may lead to less speedy processing for rare events, compared to novice events.

Spatial compatibility

The spatial compatibility of a display influences speed and accuracy of the control respones. One relates to the location of the control relative to the display and the other relates to how the display reflects control movement.

Modality

Machine systems are progressively more becoming executed by voice. There are three characteristics of voice control in the context of information processing: voic options allow more possible responses to be given in a shorter period of time compared to hand-control; voice options represent more compatible ways of transmitting symbolic or verbal information; voice options are valuable in environments when the eyes or hands are otherwise engaged.

Multiple-task performance

In multiple-task environments, there is a distinction between three different modes of multiple-task behavior: perfect parallel processing, degraded concurrent processing and strict serial processing. Perfect parallel processing means that two (or more) tasks are performed concurrently as well as either is performed alone, degraded concurrent processing means that both tasks are performed concurrently but one or both suffers, and strict parallel processing means that only one task is performed at a time.

When two tasks are similar, this may lead to confusion. Easier tasks are more likely to be performed perfectly compared to more difficult tasks. Also, when the two tasks are different, then this may lead to better performance.


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Interaction Design, beyond Human Computer Interaction (Chapter 1) - Preece et al. - 2015 - Article

Interaction Design, beyond Human Computer Interaction (Chapter 1) - Preece et al. - 2015 - Article


What is interaction design?

In everyday life, products that humans interact such as smartphones, coffee machines, printers, e-readers, game consoles, and so forth are very common. Some of those are easy to use, and enjoyable, while others can be harder to use and can lead to annoyance and frustration.

Interaction design is exactly about this, and answers: how can we help users to positively interact with products and how can we reduce the negative aspects of user experience? It is thus about designing interactive products that are easy, effective, and pleasurable to use from an user’s perspective.

What is the difference between good and poor design?

The authors start with describing two examples of poor designed products: a voice mail system used in hotels and the remote control device.

Voice Mail System

Imagine that you are in a hotel for a week for a business trip. You have left your cell phone at home, and so you use hotel’s facilities. In each room of the hotel, there is a voice mail system. You can find out if you have a message by picking up the handset and listen to the tone. If you hear ‘beep beep beep’, this means that you have a message. Then, to find out how you can access the message, you need to read instructions next to the phone. This instruction says: touch 41. Then, you touch 41 and you hear that you need to enter your Room Number to leave a message. However, you do not have any instructions on how to hear your messages. You look at the instructions again, and you see that you have to touch *, then dial your room number and end with a #. You do so, and then the system replies: “You have reached your mailbox for room 106. To leave a message, type in your password.” However, you do not have a password. You call the reception for help, and the person at the desk explains to you the correct procedure. However, this is a very lengthy procedure… Therefore, you decide to go and get your own phone.

This is thus an example of a poor design, but why is it poor? Well, there are multiple reasons for why we would call this a poor design: it is infuriating, confusing, inefficient, difficult to use, it does not let you know whether there are any messages or how many there are, and the instructions are unclear.

The marble answering machine

The marble answering machine is a bit different from the voice mail system. In this machine, familiar physical objects are used that indicate how many messages have been left. It looks fun and is enjoyable to use. It also only requires one-step actions to perform core tasks. It is simple, but elegant. Lastly, it offers functionality and allows anyone to listen to any of the messages.

This design was created by Durrell Bishop. His goal was to design a messaging system that was enjoyable to use and would also be efficient. However, even though this marble answering machine is elegant and usable, it would not be practical in a hotel setting. For example, it is not robust enough to be used in public places: the marbles could get easily lost or be taken as souvenirs. Also, in hotels, it is important to identify the user before allowing the messages to be played. Therefore, when considering the design of an interactive product, it is important to take into account where it is going to be used and who is going to use it. The marble answering machine is better suited in a home setting than at a hotel, even though at home children could also be tempted to play with the marbles.

Remote Control Device

Unfortunately, remote devices are often poorly designed. Many users find it difficult to locate the right buttons, even for the simples tasks, like pausing or finding the main menu. For some users, it is even more difficult, because they have to put their reading glasses on each time to read the buttons.

However, one type of remote, the TiVo remote control is better designed. The buttons are large, clearly labelled, and logically arranged. This makes the buttons easy to locate and use in conjunction with the menu interface which appears on the TV monitor. The remote was also designed to fit into the palm of a hand, and has a peanut shape. Furthermore, it has a playful look and feel: colourful buttons and cartoon icons were used that are very distinctive, which makes them easy to identify in the dark and without having to put glasses on.

But, why have so many other creators of remote devices failed? Well, the answer is that TiVO invested a lot of time and effort to follow a user-centered design process. For example, TiVo involved potential users in the design process, and got their feedback on everything: how does the device feel in their hand? Where should we place the batteries? They also restricted the number of control buttons and only included the essential ones. The other functions were then represented as part of the menu options and dialog boxes displayed on the TV screen.

How can we know what to design?

When designing interactive products, it is important to consider who is going to use them, how they are going to be used, and where they are going to be used. It is also important to understand what kind of activities people are doing when they use the products. For example, when people are banking online, then the interface should look secure, trustworthy, and needs to be easy to navigate.

Technologies are increasing, and the world becomes suffused with technologies for diverse activities. There are a lot of interfaces and interactive devices available, and they are also very diverse. Interfaces that used to be physical, such as cameras, microwaves, and washing machines, are becoming digital and require interaction design. This is called consumer electronics. There is also another type of costumer interaction: self-checkouts at stores, and libraries in which costumers have to check in their own books. Often, thee interfaces are not friendly. Thus, it is more cost-effective and requires less personnel, but it can lead to frustration for the users: accidentally pressing the wrong button can be frustrating.

The question of: how do you optimize the users’ experience during interaction with a system, environment, or product, so that they support and extend the users’ activities in effective, useful, and usable ways? The authors list some principles that can help in deciding which choice to make:

  1. Take into account what people are good and bad at;
  2. Consider what might help people with the way they currently do things;
  3. Think through what might provide quality user experiences;
  4. Listen to what people want and get them involved in the design;
  5. Use tried and tested user-based techniques during the design process.

What does Interaction Design entail?

Interaction design is defined as “designing interactive products to support the way people communicate and interact in their everyday and working lives.” It is thus very concerned with practice: how to design user experiences. It differs from other approaches to design computer-based systems such as software engineering. For example, think of someone who works in creating buildings. There are architects and there are civil engineers. Architects think about the people and their interactions with each other and with the house: are there enough family and private spaces? Are the spaces for eating and cooking in close proximity? In contrast, engineers are interested in issues with realizing the ideas. They think about costs, durability, structural aspects, environmental aspects, and so forth. Thus, such as there is this difference, there is also a difference between designing an interactive product (architects) and engineering the software for it (engineers).

What are the components of interaction design?

Interaction design is fundamental to all disciplines, fields, and approaches that are concerned with researching and designing computer-based systems for people. In the book, the figure shows which disciplines and fields these are. The differences between interaction design and these approaches lie mainly in the methods, philosophies, and lenses that they use to study, analyze, and design computers. Another difference is in terms of the scope and problems that they address. For example, the Information Systems approach is about computing technology in domains like business, health, and education. The Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) is about finding ways to support multiple people to work together, using computer systems.

Who is involved in interaction design?

Effective designers need to know about users, technologies, and interactions between them in order to create effective user experiences. They need to understand how people act and react to events, and how they communicate and interact with each other. They also need to understand how emotions work, what is meant by aesthetics, desirability, and what the role of narrative in human experience is. Furthermore, they need to understand the business side, the technical side, the manufacturing side, and the marketing side. Thus, it is not surprising that interaction design is often carried out by multidisciplinary teams, in which engineers, designers, programmers, psychologists, artists, and so forth are part of the team. A benefit of this is that many more ideas can be generated. A downside is that it can be difficult to work together, because there are a lot of different perspectives involved.

What are interaction design consultants?

The importance of good interaction designs are acknowledged by many companies. Therefore, there are now many interaction design consultancies. These include companies such as Cooper, NielsenNorman Group, and IDEO and also more recent ones. IDEO is a big company that has developed thousands of products, for example the first mouse used by Apple.

What is the user experience?

The user experience (UX) is very important in interaction design. UX refers to how a product behaves and is used by people in the real world. Every product that people use has a user experience: newspapers, ketchup bottles, and so forth. It is about how people feel about a product and how much pleasure and satisfaction they derive from it. It is about the overall impression of how good it is to use, to how nice it feels in your hand.

An important point is that user experience can not be designed: one can only design for a user experience. Some designers say UXD instead of UX. The ‘D’ refers to encouraging design thinking which focuses on the quality of the user experience rather than on the set of design methods to use.

There are thus many different factors that interaction designers need to take into account. Unfortunately, there is no unifying framework that can be used, but there are conceptual frameworks, tested methods, guidelines and other relevant research findings, which will be described.

According to McCarthy and Wright, there are four core threads that make up our holistic experiences: sensual, emotional, compositional, and spatio-temporal:

  1. The sensual thread. This refers to our sensory engagement with a situation. It involves the level of absorption people experience with technological devices and applications. Think of computer games, smartphones, and chat rooms, in which people are highly absorbed in their interactions at a sensory level: they feel thrill, fear, pain, joy and comfort.
  2. The emotional thread. Research on this thread is about how emotions are intertwined with the situation. For example, a person may become angry with a computer because it does not work properly. Emotions also refer to judgments about value: when someone purchases a new phone, one might be drawn to the ones that are cool-looking. However, they may experience turmoil because these are the most expensive phones.
  3. The compositional thread. This thread refers to the narrative part of the experience, and the way a person makes sense of it. For example, when shopping online, sometimes the options are very clear to people, but sometimes it can also lead to frustration. For example, people might ask themselves: “What is this about?” or “What happened?”. This thread is thus about the internal thinking that occur during experiences.
  4. The spatio-temporal thread. This refers to the space and time in which our experiences take place and their effect on these experiences. There are different ways to talk about this, for example we talk of time speeding up, slowing down, and we talk about space in terms of public and personal space, and for example needing one’s own space.

These threads can be used as ideas to help designers think and talk more clearly about the relationship between technology and experience.

What is the process of interaction design?

The process of interaction design involves four basic activities:

  1. Establishing requirements
  2. Designing alternatives
  3. Prototyping
  4. Evaluating

These activities are used to inform one another and they are also meant to be repeated. For example, one can measure the usability of what has been built by looking at how easy it is to use. This can provide feedback about that some things need to be changed, and that certain requirements are not met yet. It can also help to elicit responses from potential users about what they think and how they feel about what has been designed. This evaluation is really important in interaction design, and is needed to make sure that a product is appropriate. As important as it is to involve users, it is also important to understand people’s behaviour. This knowledge can help the designers to create better interactive products. Learning about people can also help to correct incorrect assumptions that designers have. For example, it is often assumed that old people want bigger texts, because of poorer vision. However, studies have shown that people in their 70s, 80s and older have good vision and are capable of interaction with standard-size information. It is also important to be aware of cultural differences. For example, the time and date in different countries: in the USA, date is written as month/day/year (05/26/1998), and in other countries it is often written as day/month/year (26/05/1998). Designers can also use contrasting designs, in which different colors, images and structures are provided to appeal to people in different countries.

What about interaction design and the user experience?

Before developing an interactive product, it is important to understand what the goal of this product will be. Is the goal to make the users more productive? Is the goal to create a learning tool that is challenging and motivating? The authors suggest to classify the goals in terms of usability and experience goals.

What are usability goals?

Usability is defined as making sure that the interactive products are easy to learn, effective to use, and enjoyable to use from a user’s perspective. It is broken down into these goals:

  • Effective to use (effectiveness);
  • Efficient to use (efficiency);
  • Safe to use (safety);
  • Having good utility (utility);
  • Easy to learn (learnability);
  • Easy to remember (memorability).

These goals are often operationalized as questions. Through answering these questions, designers can be alerted very early on in the design process to potential problems and conflicts. An example of a good question is: “How long will it take a user to figure out how to use the most basic functions  for a new smartwatch; how much can they capitalize on from their prior experience; and how long would it take a user to learn the whole set of functions?”. Simply asking: “is the system easy to learn?” is not a good question.

What are user experience goals?

There are a lot of different experience goals. These goals include emotions and felt experiences, and are divided into desirable and undesirable ones. This is shown in Table 1.1. Examples of desirable aspects are: satisfying, helfpul, ful, and undesirable aspects are: boring, unpleasant, frustrating.

What are design principles?

Design principles are generalizable abstractions which are intended to orient designers toward thinking about the different aspects of their designs. A common example is feedback: a product should incorporate adequate feedback to the users to ensure that they know what to do next in their tasks. Another one is ‘findability’, which refers to the degree to which a particular object is easy to discover or locate (navigating a website, finding the delete image option on a digital camera).

These principles are derived from theories, experience, and common sense. They are prescriptive: they thus prescribe what designers should provide and what they should avoid (do’s and don’t’s).

The authors describe the most common design principles: visibility, feedback, constraints, consistency, and affordance.

Visibility

Think back to the voice mail system: the voice mail system made it unclear as to how many messages there are, while the answer machine using the marbles made it very clear. Norman (1988) uses an example of the controls of a car: the controls for the different operations are clearly visible (indicators, headlights, horn). This makes it easier for the driver to find the appropriate control. When things are not visible, it makes it harder for users to use them. Nowadays, a lot of products do poor on this principle: for example think of the sensor technology used in bathrooms. When you washed your hands and there is a sensor technology for drying your hands, it can be sometimes difficult to know where to place your hands in this drying machine.

Feedback

Feedback is defined as sending back information about what action has been done and finished. There are different types of feedback for interaction design: audio, tactile, verbal, visual, and combinations of these. It is important to decide which combinations are appropriate for different kinds of activities.

Constraints

Constraining users refers to determining ways to restrict the user interaction that can take place at a given moment. There are different ways to achieve this, and a common example is to deactivate certain menu options, thereby restricting the user to actions permissible at that stage of the activity. This prevents users from selecting incorrect options and reduces the chance of making a mistake. This can also be incorporated in the physical design of a device: the external slots in a computer have been designed to only allow a specific cable or card to be inserted in there.

Consistency

A consistent interface is one which follows rules, such as the same operation to select all objects. For example, always clicking the left mouse button to highlight a graphical object. Consistent interfaces are easier to learn and use. This can be more difficult to achieve in complex interfaces.

Affordance

Affordance means that people are given hints about how to use the product. For example, a mouse button invites pushing (clicking) because it’s constrained in its plastic shell. When products are affordable, it makes them easier to interact with. Other examples are a door handle which affords pulling, and a cup handle affording grasping. Norman (1999) suggests two kinds of affordance: perceived and real. Physical objects have real affordance (a cup has actual handles). This means that it does not have to be learned. Interfaces are screen-based and do not have real affordances. Instead, screen-based interfaces are said to have perceived affordance, which can be learned.

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Perceptual Selectivity for Color and Form (Theeuwes, J. (1992))
Article summary with The complexity of failure: Implications of complexity theory for safety investigations by Dekker a.o. - 2011 - Chapter
Intelligence gathering post 9/11 - Loftus - 2011 - Article

Intelligence gathering post 9/11 - Loftus - 2011 - Article


By interviewing many different individuals information can be gathered for intelligence purposes. Not all these individuals want to cooperate though, think of suspects and prisoners. But information can also be gathered from other individuals. While getting information, investigators need to be aware of memory distortion and interrogation influences. Also they need to be able to detect deception.

Interviews and interrogations

At the end of the nineties a distinction was made between interviews and interrogations. Interviews are usually nonaccusatory. The investigator needs to evaluate the accuracy and completeness of the stories. Interrogations are more coercive and can use strategies such as confrontation and minimization. Here, the investigator needs to be aware not to lead to false confessions or erroneous inferences about lying and truth telling.

Three important areas of research that can help maximize the accurate information and minimize inaccurate information are memory distortion, false confessions, and detecting deception.

Memory distortion

Many times after people have already experienced an event they are exposed to new information afterwards. This information can supplement or alter their memory, leading to errors in accurately trying to report what happened. Typical experiments have shown that misinformation can cause very large deficits in memory, such as seeing non-existing items and recalling incorrect details.

Some important questions, such as when people are especially prone to being influenced by misinformation, and if we are all susceptible to misinformation, can be answered much better based upon recent research.

Factors that influence the power of misinformation

  • People are more vulnerable to the influence of misinformation as time passes. The more time there is between the event and the misinformation, the higher the chance that the misinformation will be incorporated into the memory.

  • Also important is the method by which the misinformation is delivered. People are more likely to pick up the information if they get it from another person.

  • Young children and elderly are more susceptible to misinformation.

  • People with dissociative experiences are more susceptible to misinformation, because they distrust their own memories.

The cognitive interview

The cognitive interview was developed in the mid-eighties. It incorporates different techniques derived from basic principles of cognitive and social psychology, and it is supposed to help getting better information about past experiences. This type of interview can bring out a lot more information than more conventional strategies.

To keep in mind during an interview or interrogation

People are constantly exposed to new information after the event has passed. The researcher should look for instances in which this exposure may have influenced the individual’s memory. Especially when the individual doesn’t have a good memory of the event, it is important to remember that that person is more susceptible to misinformation.

If a person makes a claim it is important to explore possible sources of suggestion. Think of the media, films, interrogations, and even self-generated misinformation.

Another important point to keep in mind is that confidence is irrelevant. Even if a person is very detailed and absolutely sure of his story, this does not make it true.

Finally, it is important to be aware of a useful manual for training police on how to gather information.

False confessions

One paradigm to investigate false confessions is the cheating paradigm. Here, the participants are accused of giving help to another person who is solving a problem, after a clear instruction that the two must not work together. Many participants eventually confess falsely. Another paradigm to study false confessions used tampered video evidence to make people admit to an act they didn’t commit.

There are many different reasons as to why someone would confess to something they didn’t do. Some people confess for attention, or to protect someone. Also, bluffing can increase the likelihood of a false confession. In a coerced-compliant false confession, a person confesses even though they know that they didn’t do it, but they think it will lead to less negative outcomes than not confessing. In a coerced-internalized false confession a person confesses after false evidence is supplied (like saying someone failed the polygraph).

Vulnerable groups

Especially children, juveniles, and the mentally challenged are vulnerable to making false confessions.

Taping

One important paper suggested that all interrogations should be videotaped. This way, potential suggestion or coercion can be documented.

Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions when it comes to false confessions. Such as that false confessions do not happen that often, that only vulnerable people falsely confess, that the study of police interrogation is still at its beginning, and that suspects are sufficiently protected by their rights.

How to verify a confession

Confessions should always be verified. There are several things that can be done to contribute to this verification. First of all, the conditions under which the report was made have to be reported (e.g. was there coercion?). Secondly, the details in the confession need to be compared to what is known about the event. The confession is more valuable if the person has details that only he could have known and that have not been reported in another place. Finally, it needs to be investigated if there were conditions that could have made the person falsely confess (e.g. fatigue, isolation, false evidence).

Detecting deception

Results from experimental studies have shown that many people can tell an untrue story without showing any obvious clues that they are lying, such as gaze aversion or fidgeting. This popular belief can have very negative consequences for cultural and ethnic groups that engage more in gaze aversion in their everyday lives.

Clues

Several strategies can be used to detect deception:

  • By using a particular interviewing approach, such as the information-gathering style of interviewing, witnesses are asked open-ended questions. The focus is on gathering information, and not on accusing the witness. This is a very good approach, because it gives the investigator a lot of information which can be compared to the other data.

  • Another good approach is to ask unexpected questions, such as “Who finished their dinner first?”. Liars will more often come up with an answer, because they fear that if they do not know the answer, they look guilty.

  • Withholding event facts from a suspect can be used to trap the suspect in inconsistencies (e.g. not telling the suspect you found his fingerprints, until after he admitted to never have been at the crime scene).

  • Increasing the intensity of the interview can make lying more difficult, because lying takes a lot of cognitive effort.

Torture

It has become public that often coercive interrogation techniques are used on individuals that are being suspected of terrorism. These are sometimes called enhanced interrogation techniques, and include the repeated induction of shock, stress, anxiety, and torture. However, there is a lack of evidence that these methods actually work and reveal information that otherwise would not have been revealed. Also, they may just do the opposite of what they are intended to do.

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How can humans understand their automated cars? HMI principles, problems and solutions (Carsten, O., & Martens, M. H. (2019))
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Update: added summaries

A summary has been added with the following article:

  • The complexity of failure: Implications of complexity theory for safety investigations by Dekke, Cilliers & Hofmeyr - 2011

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