Evaluation of audio and visual alerts during a divided attention task in noise
Keywords:Display devices, Alerting systems, Divided attention, Halifax-class frigates, Main effect, Visual display
AbstractThe Halifax class frigate operations room is a demanding environment in which operators are required to monitor multiple visual displays and auditory communication channels. The current alerting system is ineffective, as the visual alerts tend to be ignored or dismissed without being read, and the auditory alerts are turned off completely. Visual alerting strategies have already been investigated. The current study compared the response times (RT) to visual, auditory and combined (audiovisual) alerts as subjects performed a visual divided attention task using three displays (secondary task). Another objective was to investigate the effects of alert type on the performance of the secondary task. The experiment was performed in quiet and in recorded frigate control room noise (69 dBA). There were no significant differences in RT between the visual and audiovisual alerts in quiet or noise. The RT for the auditory alert was significantly higher than the audiovisual alert in quiet, and than both the visual and audiovisual alerts in noise. There was no main effect of alert type on the performance of the secondary task. The audiovisual alert could be beneficial for detection in the operations room because 1) the RT was not significantly different from the visual alert, indicating that the auditory component was not distracting, and 2) it is more likely to be detected over the visual alert when the operators are looking away from the displays. Future studies should investigate the psychoacoustic properties of the auditory component of the alert for perceived urgency, in the interest of prioritizing the alerts.
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