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Effects of varying the threshold of alarm systems and workload on human performance

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The purpose of this research was to investigate the effects of varying the threshold of alarm systems and workload on human response to alarm signals and performance on a complex task. A receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was selected to reflect the sensitivity of the alarm system. The threshold of the alarm system was manipulated by changing the value of beta along the ROC curve. A total of 84 students participated in experiment 1 and 48 students participated in experiment 2. Participants performed a compensatory-tracking, a resource management and a monitoring task. As expected, results showed that participants responded significantly faster to true alarm signals when they were using the system with the highest threshold under low-workload conditions. Results also indicated that changing the threshold of the alarm system had a significant effect on overall performance and this effect was greater under high-workload conditions. However, contrary to expectations, the highest level of performance was achieved by setting the threshold at a low level. Results from both experiments revealed that the advantage of faster alarm reaction time as a result of increasing the system's threshold was lost because of its increased probability of missed events.
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Keywords: False-Alarm-Prone and Miss-Prone Automation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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