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Attention, Action, Absent-Minded Aberrations

A Behaviour-Economic Approach


Petra Klumb

Positive aspects of human errors are rarely acknowledged in both research and practice. Adopting a behaviour-economic perspective on slips of action, however, allows the assessment of their costs and benefits. The all-or-nothing dichotomy of many action and error theories is replaced here by a continuum of outcomes ranging from maximal problem generation to maximal improvement. Balancing this dimension and the resource dimension ranging from minimal expenditure to maximal costs yields the efficiency of an action. While slips of action are conceived of as instances of «graceful degradation», the liability to this kind of aberrations is supposed to reflect idiosyncratic resource-allocation policies in everyday life. Rather than by interindividual differences in the ability to inhibit irrelevant stimuli or mental representations these policies were found to be influenced by the design of the task and the environment.
Contents: A behaviour-economic approach to success and failure of human information processing - Costs and benefits of action slips - Individual differences in information processing - Assessment of absent-mindedness - Everyday activities - Aberrant driving behaviour - Relapses in relearning - Proofreading performance - Mental preoccupations.