Meaningful Alarms (07-12-19)

McDougall and colleagues investigated the best sorts of sounds to use as medical alarms.  They conducted “two experiments, with nonclinical participants, alarm sets which relied on similarities to environmental sounds (concrete alarms, such as a heartbeat sound to indicate ‘check cardiovascular function’) were compared to alarms using abstract tones to represent functions on medical devices. The extent to which alarms were acoustically diverse was also examined: alarm sets were either acoustically different or acoustically similar within each set. . . . concrete alarm sets, which were also acoustically different, were learned more quickly than abstract alarms which were acoustically similar. Importantly, the abstract similar alarms were devised using guidelines from the current global medical device standard (International Electrotechnical Commission 60601–1–8, 2012). . . . eye tracking data showed that participants were most likely to fixate first on the correct medical devices in an operating theater scene when presented with concrete acoustically different alarms using real world sounds.”

Sine McDougall, Judy Edworthy, Deili Sinimeri, Jamie Goodliffe, Daniel Bradley, and James Foster.  “Searching for Meaning in Sound:  Learning and Interpreting Alarm Signals in Visual Environments.”  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Applied, in press,