Use of warnings in an attentionally demanding detection task

M. Maltz, J. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The study assessed the use of binary warnings in a detection task with high attentional demands. Participants in the experiment had to decide whether to continue or halt production based on a briefly displayed number that indicated a temperature level. The short time that the number was displayed required that participants focus on the display area. Participants were rewarded for production when the system was intact and were heavily penalized for decisions to produce under dangerous temperature levels. Color-coded warning cues (green for safe, red for danger) were displayed to the participants prior to number presentation. The experimental conditions differed in the validity of the cue and in the probability of red cues. Results showed significant learning for all conditions. Participants tended to ignore the nonvalid and low-validity cues and rely only on highly valid cues. However, the mere existence of cues affected participants' general tendency to take risks. Actual or potential applications of this research include improving systems that require operators to devote attention to complex tasks while receiving and responding to warnings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-226
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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