Rapid advances in IT that allow complex information to be presented in high volume and density are challenging human ability to absorb and analyze data as never before. Designing technologies and systems to provide optimal sensory information to human users will be increasingly important. But to do this, quantitative relationships between brain behavior at a molecular level and observable human behavior must be better identified. This was previously considered to be a futuristic, and somewhat unrealistic, goal, however, recent advances in cognitive neuroscience have provided new opportunities for researchers. Refinements in imaging technology and simulation tools, and the learning yielded from them, provided the Quantifying Human Information Processing (QHIP) research teams strong starting points from which to further assess the ability to quantify human information processing. Led by experts in psychology, cognitive science, and information processing, among other fields, researchers sought to quantify the information flow in the nervous system, the limits of that flow, and how it is affected by emotions. The QHIP effort looked at specific aspects of the brain's information processing ability including measuring task-related and unrelated thought, assessing mental workload, and finding optimal information processing. The researchers found important indicators of both the capacity and limits of the human brain, and offer new ways to think about the brain. This work is a valuable contribution to the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and cognition, and will serve as a resource for human factors engineers designing the next generation of information, safety, analysis, and control systems because it starts to answer how to maximize information processing without overloading the central nervous system.
Our characterization of how humans extract and process information depends on how we measure it, and the resulting quantification ultimately determines the applicability of this science in the design of systems to optimize and enhance human performance. Toward this end, the Potomac Institute’s new volume, Quantifying Human Information Processing, makes a significant and timely contribution. More than a collection of analytical literature reviews written by experts in their respective fields, each chapter explores its subject matter for heuristics and synthesis. This book should prove valuable to both research psychologists and human-system designers.
James L. Olds
McBride and Schmorrow have made a very significant contribution to the Human Factors literature in their new edited volume. They have brought together a truly trans-disciplinary perspective that spans the field. This should be required reading for any serious practitioner or scholar.
Dennis K. McBride is president of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Dylan Schmorrow is program manager in the Information Processing Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Chapter 1 The Quantification of Human Information Processing Chapter 2 Role of Memory in Visual Search: A Brief Review of Developing Literature Chapter 3 Quantifying Human Information Processing: Can Practice Effects Alleviate Bottlenecks? Chapter 4 Neural and Genetic Assays of Human Mental Workload Chapter 5 Time, Emotion, and the Limits to Human Information Processing Chapter 6 Individual Differences in Information Processing Chapter 7 Measuring Task-Related and Task-Unrelated Thoughts Chapter 8 Quantification of Rapid Decision Making