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Dr. MacGregor's educational background combines degrees in psychology and engineering. She has been actively involved in human factors research and consulting activities since 1980. As an Associate Professor in the Department of Systems Design Engineering, her main area of academic focus lies in "cognitive ergonomics". Listed below are her primary research interests.
The field of cognitive ergonomics strives to understand how humans process and manipulate information so that such understanding of limitations and capabilities can be applied to the effective design of tasks, interfaces, and systems.
Individual Differences and Information Manipulation
It is becoming increasingly recognized by human factors specialists that the interaction between the cognitive "styles" of users and the method in which information is presented can play a role in how effectively information is retrieved from an interface or a display. Cognitive encoding style refers to the habitual or preferred format (i.e. linguistic or pictorial) by which one encodes and manipulates information in working memory. The effects of cognitive encoding style on the user's ability to obtain information from various database formats (text vs. graphical) are, as yet, not well understood. Investigation into the role cognitive encoding styles play in information extraction and manipulation should aid in the improving of navigational tools for large databases. Usability Testing and Human-Computer Interaction
User-centered, or human-centered, design considers the capabilities and limitations of the user(s) in the design of products (i.e. tasks, tools, and systems). Usability testing, involving representative users, is fast becoming a key evaluation technique as part of the iterative design process. The goals of usability testing are to empirically evaluate the usefulness, effectiveness, and acceptance of a product at various stages of the design process. A wide variety of methods and protocols for usability testing are currently being employed in the area of human-computer interaction and interface design. Further research into the efficacy of the various methods should help to streamline the design process and make usability techniques more accessible to the manufacturing marketplace.
Driver Performance and Safety
While often taken for granted, driving is actually a complex cognitive task. Better understanding of the nature of such information processing as it relates to vehicular control, navigation and decision-making can help to improve the design of information displays both inside and outside of the vehicle. Investigation into the roles that aging and medical fitness play in driver information needs and decision-making should help to reduce crash risk. Contact Information
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