Alternating steering control-response compatibility: Compatibility, age, practice, strategy and instruction effects on performance characteristics of driving a simulated underground coal mine shuttle car.

Christine Zupanc (2008). Alternating steering control-response compatibility: Compatibility, age, practice, strategy and instruction effects on performance characteristics of driving a simulated underground coal mine shuttle car. PhD Thesis, School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Christine Zupanc
Thesis Title Alternating steering control-response compatibility: Compatibility, age, practice, strategy and instruction effects on performance characteristics of driving a simulated underground coal mine shuttle car.
School, Centre or Institute School of Human Movement Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2008-05
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Burgess-Limerick, Robin J.
Wallis, Guy
Subjects 320000 Medical and Health Sciences
Formatted abstract Ensuring directional compatibility between control and response is a fundamental principle of ergonomics. Laboratory based research suggests that compatible relationships are associated with fewer errors and faster responses. Shuttle cars used in underground coal mines provide an example of a vehicle in which this principle is violated in that the control-response relationship is continually alternating between compatible and incompatible.
Five experiments were performed using a virtual reality analogy of the shuttle car to examine the consequences of this situation for steering direction errors and reaction time during emergency steering avoidance manoeuvres. Control-response compatibility, temporal constraints, practice duration, and task instructions were manipulated. Comparisons were also made between young adults and older adults. The aim was to explore both the practical implications and the consequences for a theoretical understanding of control-response compatibility. The results are considered from three theoretical perspectives: Dimensional Overlap Model (Kornblum et al, 1990); Theory of Event Coding (Hommel et al, 2001); and multiple paired forward-inverse model for motor control (e.g. Wolpert et al, 2001).
In experiment 1, 48 participants performed one of four compatibility conditions:
(i) always compatible; (ii) always incompatible; (iii) an alternating compatible condition where each hand alternatively carried out a compatible and incompatible trial (within and between hands); and (iv) an alternating condition where one hand carried out compatible trials and the other incompatible trials (between hands). Fewer steering direction errors and fastest responses were found in the compatible condition. Error rate decreased over time in the incompatible condition. A compatibility effect for both errors and reaction time was also found when the control-response relationship alternated; however, isolating compatibility to a hand (between hands condition) resulted in fewer errors and shorter reaction times than when compatibility alternated within and between hands. In experiment 2, 16 participants performed alternating compatibility trials with varying temporal constraints. The low time stress trials did not produce consistently fewer errors than high time stress trials, although reaction times in low time stress trials were longer.
In experiment 3, the performance of 15 older male adults (aged 54-64 years) was compared to 15 younger male adults. The older group made more errors in incompatible trials than the young group, however there was no significant difference in reaction time. Experiment 4 involved extended practice. Seven young males, and seven older males, performed 6 one hour sessions. Overall, there was no difference in error rate or reaction time between the age groups, and the error rate and reaction time compatibility effect was extinguished in session 6. Changing the control-response relationship to always compatible (in sessions 7 and 8) resulted in a temporary increase in steering direction errors, and slower responses not, for the hand which had previously performed incompatible trials. Participants in experiment 3 and 4 reported using different strategies to perform the task, and correlated performance differences were observed. Participants who reported using a rule-based strategy for both compatible and incompatible trials did not demonstrate reaction time differences between compatible and incompatible trials. In experiment 5, participants (N = 22) were instructed to use a rule-based strategy for both compatible and incompatible trials, however 15 participants reported only using the rule for incompatible trials. Effects of compatibility on both error rate and reaction time were found for the group who only used a rule for incompatible trials. An initial error rate compatibility effect was extinguished half-way through the trials for those who used a rule for all trials, and no effect of compatibility on reaction time was found.
The experimental results were discussed within three theoretical frameworks. The Dimensional Overlap Model was found to be inadequate in providing explanations for many of the results, while the Theory of Event Coding, and the multiple paired forward-inverse model for motor control, both provide scope for understanding the results for the alternating conditions and the influence of context, instruction and task strategy on performance. Suggested avenues for future research include: the use event-related fMRI to investigate the potential overlap of perception and action; and investigation of the influence of proprioception on the ability of the motor system to adapt to distorted control-response relationships.
The practical implications of this research are that compatible control-response relationships result in fewer steering errors and faster correct responses for both younger and older adults than consistently incompatible, or alternating relationships. Performance in the alternating situation, where compatibility was isolated to a hand, improved with extended practice, however a compatibility effect remained indicating that compatibility effects are resistant to practice. Changing the situation to always compatible resulted in a temporary increase in error rates of the hand which had previously performed incompatible trials. Care must be taken in the redesign of controls when operators have experience with an alternating compatible and incompatible relationship. A qualitatively different steering mechanism may be required to reduce the probability of steering errors in this situation.

Keyword stimulus-response compatibility, instruction, simulation, strategy, aging

 
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