Process Tracing Analysis of Hurricane Information Displays

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To study people's processing of hurricane forecast advisories, we conducted a computer-based experiment that examined 11 research questions about the information seeking patterns of students assuming the role of a county emergency manager in a sequence of six hurricane forecast advisories for each of four different hurricanes. The results show that participants considered a variety of different sources of information—textual, graphic, and numeric—when tracking hurricanes. Click counts and click durations generally gave the same results but there were some significant differences. Moreover, participants' information search strategies became more efficient over forecast advisories and with increased experience tracking the four hurricanes. These changes in the search patterns from the first to the fourth hurricane suggest that the presentation of abstract principles in a training manual was not sufficient for them to learn how to track hurricanes efficiently but they were able to significantly improve their search efficiency with a modest amount (roughly an hour) of practice. Overall, these data indicate that information search patterns are complex and deserve greater attention in studies of dynamic decision tasks.

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