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					       Are machines replacing certain human cognitive functions?

Lauren McKenna and Dallas Warren
Psy 322 – Human-Machine Interaction
April 12, 2005

                               FINAL PROJECT PROPOSAL
Advisors: Professor Johnson-Laird

       Are machines replacing certain human cognitive functions? Do humans rely too much on

technology and abdicate rational decision making to algorithmic computer programs? Or is

technology the key to making everyday decisions more efficient? We wish to analyze the role

Personal Digital Assistants play in assisting the health care sector. With the development of the

PDA, many time-consuming processes in the medical field are being transformed, increasing

overall efficiency and decreasing the need for human involvement. Initially PDAs were used as

digital planners; however, more advanced and specialized features have been developed and

incorporated into PDAs in order to expand its uses.

       For example, some physicians have started using PDAs to access relevant patient history,

pharmaceutical data, and treatment methods to more efficiently diagnose ailments and optimize

treatment protocols for their patients. The devices can also be used to upload, download and

store results of basic medical tests. We want to determine what medical professionals are taking

advantage of this technological advance. Is this device geared more towards general practitioners,

surgeons, nurses, or radiologists? Are these medical PDAs “user friendly” for senior age

practitioners, or are they only for the new age “techies” of the medical profession? Are women

more prone to use such a device in order to improve organization? Or are men more inclined to

use PDAs for practical purposes like cutting labor costs or saving time? We also want to

determine what functions of PDAs are being used by medical professionals, and what functions

have not been helpful.
        By analyzing testimonials, published articles, and statistics about PDA use in the medical

sector we want to examine and assess the costs, benefits, and practicality of this device. Is this

new technology a necessity or a luxury? What are the potential consequences of relying on

PDAs to analyze life-threatening illnesses? Even though there are concerns about introducing

this technology into the medical field, there are potential benefits to patients and doctors. How

helpful will PDAs be in eliminating or at least substantially reducing paperwork on patient

history? Will doctors have less of a need to hire assistants and nurses? Will this lead to the

elimination of human-to-human interaction in the medical field?

        We hypothesize that gender will have little to no effect on the use of PDAs, but that age

will play a large role as younger physicians are generally more computer savvy and accepting of

technological advancements. Also, it is probable that most medical professionals would use

PDAs for simple, organizational tasks before trusting the technology to perform more crucial

operations. We also believe that the benefits of portability, flexibility, reliability, and multi-

functionality of the devices will lessen human errors in recording patient data, minimize data

storage costs, reduce mis-filed or lost records, and provide ease of data mining, retrieval, and

distribution to large medical teams involved in patient care.

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