View Full Version : Computer/systems risks and individual differences

H.j. Woltring, Fax/tel +31.40.413 744
08-17-1992, 06:53 PM
Dear Biomch-L readers,

In reply to Jim Harvey's recent posting on failing X-Ray systems and/or
their operators, the following item from the latest Risks-Forum Digest
seems worth cross-posting. I apologize for going beyond a purely
biomechanical approach, but it can be useful to look beyond one's own
discipline once-in-a-while.



Date: Wed, 12 Aug 1992 15:39 EST
From: HORN%athena@leia.polaroid.com
Subject: Intolerance and human differences
Sender: Risks-Forum Digest 13.73 (Mon, 17 Aug 1992)

System designers will need much more understanding of diversity (not the
PC kind) as computer based systems go into widespread use. The somewhat
intolerant comments regarding user inability to understand obvious systems
are indications of design flaws. There are some people who are stupid, and
others who have learned to use feigned stupidity as a negotiating mechanism,
but most of these problems are related to different personality traits.

As a basic, I recommend that anyone working with such systems really learn
about how different people can be. The Hermann Brain dominance profile
(left-right brain) and the Myers-Briggs profiles are two important ways to
discuss some aspects of differences. There are also many other more discipline
specific analyses of such things as human behavior under stress, etc. Reading
the literature is a start, but the organized training courses are very
important. Take one if possible. You may learn a lot about how differently
react and how differently they want to be treated.

One of the classic examples is between the analytic left-brained engineer who
insisted on a detailed theoretical training method. His customers were
physically oriented lower-left brain sensor types. They wanted someone to take
them to the machine, literally hold their hands, have them push the buttons,
and directly experience the machine. The engineer felt that this would be a
very demeaning experience, while they thought the lecturing was worthless and
insulting. A simple personality difference.

Also, don't forget the impact of age, illness, stress, and the like on
behavior. Now that more of us have grey hairs you see more computers that are
usable by bifocal wearers. Rob Horn

[For more on the left-brain / right-brain differentiation, see my chapter,
Psychosocial Implications of Computer Software Development and Use: Zen and
the Art of Computing, in Theory and Practice of Software Technology,
edited by Ferrari, Bolognani, and Goguen, North-Holland, pp. 221-232, 1983.