This website does not use cookies. Read Privacy Policy here.
Beville Engineering Logo

Less is More


“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”- Herbert Simon

Jonah Lehrer, in his book “How We Decide” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2009), uses the above quote in a section on how we can think too much in making a decision. He cites (among others) an MIT study in which two groups are each given a portfolio of stock investments to manage. One group only had access how the stock prices changed, while the other had steady stream of financial information, including the Wall Street Journal and access to experts. As you likely have guessed by now, the group with the limited information out-performed the information-heavy group. The author gives numerous examples of where excess information can lead an individual astray.

The book is a well written summary of recent research in decision theory and addresses how different parts of the brain come together in decision making, including the rational and emotional sides of our psyche. Numerous real-world examples are given on decisions made under time stress, and how our brain aided or hindered that decision process. The author uses the examples of the impact of excess information as a warning about becoming overly enamored with rationality.

The myth that more data will improve decision making is intuitively appealing and therefore difficult to dispel. We see the impact in even more alarms to help the operator respond to process upsets. We see the desire to display data that previously would not have been brought into the control room. We see it in large monitors crammed with variables that will help the operator detect an abnormal situation. We see this in attempts to create dashboards for everyone.

Copyright 2011 Beville Engineering, Inc.

For further information, visit the links below.

| Alarm & Display System Analysis Overview | Alarm Management | Display Design | Alarm & Display Design Seminar | Beville Shape Calculator -Excel download | Alarm Distribution Estimator -Excel download |


Article Published By
Consortium Reports New Findings on Alarm Rates Automation World
How Many Alarms Can An Operator Handle Chemical Processing
Impact of Alarm Rates and Interface Design on Operator Performance Automation World
Operator Interfaces: Moving from Comfortable to Most Effective Automation World
Operator Performance as a Function of Alarm Rate and Interface Design


This year's Fall meeting for the Center for Operator Performance will be October 24-26 in Corpus Christi. For more information, please contact Lisa Via. Guests are always welcome!


Our summer newsletter is now available. Click here!

Take our short survey on operator span of control. Click here (new window)

David Strobhar's book, "Human Factors in Process Plant Operation," is now available in both hardcover and Kindle e-book.

Copyright © 1996-2019 Beville Engineering, Inc. All rights reserved. (937)434-1093.