And did they ever lose their work as a result oh yes

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And did they ever lose their work as a result? Oh, yes, they said, we do that a lot. Well, how come nobody ever said anything about it? After all, they were encouraged to report all problems with the system. The reason was simple: when the system stopped working or did something strange, they dutifully reported it as a problem. But when they made the Return versus Enter error, they blamed themselves. After all, they had been told what to do. They had simply erred. The idea that a person is at fault when something goes wrong is deeply entrenched in society. That s why we blame others and even ourselves. Unfortunately, the idea that a person is at fault is imbedded in the legal system. When major accidents occur, official courts of inquiry are set up to assess the blame. More and more often the blame is attributed to human error. The person involved can be fined, punished, or fired. Maybe training procedures are revised. The law rests comfortably. But in my experience, human error usually is a result of poor design: it should be called system error. Humans err continually; it is an intrinsic part of our nature. System design should take this into account. Pinning the blame on the person may
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be a comfortable way to proceed, but why was the system ever designed so that a single act by a single person could cause calamity? Worse, blaming the person without fixing the root, underlying cause does not fix the problem: the same error is likely to be repeated by someone else. I return to the topic of human error in Chapter 5. Of course, people do make errors. Complex devices will always require some instruction, and someone using them without instruction should expect to make errors and to be confused. But two: The Psychology of Everyday Actions 67 designers should take special pains to make errors as cost-free as possible. Here is my credo about errors: Eliminate the term human error. Instead, talk about communication and interaction: what we call an error is usually bad communication or interaction. When people collaborate with one another, the word error is never used to characterize another person s utterance. That s because each person is trying to understand and respond to the other, and when something is not understood or seems inappropriate, it is questioned, clarified, and the collaboration continues. Why can t the interaction between a person and a machine be thought of as collaboration? Machines are not people. They can t communicate and understand the same way we do. This means that their designers have a special obligation to ensure that the behavior of machines is understandable to the people who interact with them. True collaboration requires each party to make some effort to accommodate and understand the other. When we collaborate with machines, it is people who must do all the accommodation. Why shouldn t the machine be more friendly? The machine should accept normal human behavior, but just as people often subconsciously assess the
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