The Hysteresis Effect


  1. Farrell, P.S.E.
Corporate Authors
Defence and Civil Inst of Environmental Medicine, Downsview ONT (CAN)
Human information processing is an integral part of the interaction among the human, the machine, and their operating environment, and it influences human-machine system performance. The hysteresis effect is an aspect of human information processing that should be considered when designing equipment, procedures, and training. A system is said to exhibit hysteresis when it responds differently to identical inputs depending on the direction in which the system is being driven. In the context of human information processing, the term hysteresis effect refers to the shape of task performance curves plotted against the task demand. Figure 1 shows the results of a forced-pace serial reaction task, otherwise called a number shadowing task, in which participants were asked to respond to a linearly increasing then decreasing task demand (Goldberg & Stewart, 1980). The response reached a maximum point and then began to fall for an increasing demand of 0.5 to 4.0 characters/s over 36 s. As the demand decreased symmertrically,performance remained at a degraded level until the demand was quite low. In essence, participants performed better during increasing than during decreasing demand, thus exibiting a form of hystereses. One of the earliest anecdotal evidences of hysteresis in a complex system was a study of pedestrian accidents near zebra crossings, conducted by the Australian Road Research Board (Chamberlain, 1968).
Human information processing
Report Number
DCIEM-98-P-73 — Paper
Date of publication
30 Jun 1999
Number of Pages
Hardcopy;Document Image stored on Optical Disk

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