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2009 | 5 | 84-90

Article title

Designing informative warning signals: Effects of indicator type, modality, and task demand on recognition speed and accuracy

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An experiment investigated the assumption that natural indicators which exploit existing learned associations between a signal and an event make more effective warnings than previously unlearned symbolic indicators. Signal modality (visual, auditory) and task demand (low, high) were also manipulated. Warning effectiveness was indexed by accuracy and reaction time (RT) recorded during training and dual task test phases. Thirty-six participants were trained to recognize 4 natural and 4 symbolic indicators, either visual or auditory, paired with critical incidents from an aviation context. As hypothesized, accuracy was greater and RT was faster in response to natural indicators during the training phase. This pattern of responding was upheld in test phase conditions with respect to accuracy but observed in RT only in test phase conditions involving high demand and the auditory modality. Using the experiment as a specific example, we argue for the importance of considering the cognitive contribution of the user (viz., prior learned associations) in the warning design process. Drawing on semiotics and cognitive psychology, we highlight the indexical nature of so-calledauditory iconsornatural indicatorsand argue that the cogniser is an indispensable element in the tripartite nature of signification.







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  • School of Psychology and MARCS Auditory Laboratories, University of Western Sydney
  • School of Psychology and MARCS Auditory Laboratories, University of Western Sydney
  • School of Psychology and MARCS Auditory Laboratories, University of Western Sydney
  • School of Psychology and MARCS Auditory Laboratories, University of Western Sydney


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