- Ph.D. 1997, University of California, Santa Barbara (Cognitive Psychology)
- M.A. 1995, University of California, Santa Barbara (Experimental Psychology)
- B.A. 1992, California State University, Northridge (Psychology)
Specialty Areas: Human Factors: (Instructional Materials Design, Medical Device Design and Human Error) Cognitive Psychology: (Text Comprehension, Learning and Memory)
- PSY 150 - Principles of Human Behavior
- PSY 321/L - Experimental Psychology & Lab
- PSY 382 - Principles of Human Factors
- PSY 403/L - Perception and Cognition & Lab
- PSY 656 - Seminar in Human Factors - Human Error
- PSY 656 - Seminar on Human Factors - User and Task Analysis
Selected Publications and Presentations
Harp, S.F., & Maslich, A.A. (2005). The consequences of including seductive details during lecture. Teaching of Psychology, 32 (2), 100-103. Provides evidence that including seductive details during lecture results in performance decrements similar to those when seductive details are included in text.
Harp, S.F., & Mayer, R.E. (1998). How seductive details do their damage: A theory of cognitive interest in science learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90 (3), 414-434. Provides empirical evidence that the seductive details effect, a reduced ability to retain and understand important material containing irrelevant adjuncts, is caused by a priming of inappropriate prior knowledge when interesting but irrelevant adjuncts are included. The results strongly suggest that irrelevant adjuncts should be avoided when presenting science lessons.
Harp, S.F., & Mayer, R.E. (1997). The role of interest in learning from scientific text and illustrations: On the distinction between emotional and cognitive interest. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89 (1), 92-102.Provides experimental evidence that the addition of emotionally interesting adjuncts in scientific expository text, such as arousing but irrelevant sentences and illustrations, interferes with learning. The results suggest benefits of cognitive interest over emotional interest when learning scientific material.
Spiker, V.A., Harp, S.F., & Moffitt, K. (1999). FocalView: Area-of-interest and image-warping presentation of large schematics on small computer displays. US Air Force. Presents experimental evidence and discusses findings of applied human factors research aimed toward the development of efficient methods for presenting large-scale diagrammatic information on laptop displays for use by flight line personnel.
Spiker, V.A., Harp, S.F., & Fischer, S.C. (1998). Continued development of methods to assess the usability of plant procedures. (EPRI). Palo Alto, CA: Electric Power Research Institute. Elaborates on studies conducted to validate an innovative methodology for assessing the usability of power plant procedures. Provides empirically based suggestions for reducing human error during nuclear power plant maintenance and operations.
Human Error in Medicine: Error in medicine is a serious issue that is receiving national attention. Staggering numbers of medical devices are currently in use in hospitals, doctor's offices, as well as in home care. Despite their numerous differences, one thing that all medical devices have in common is that they are operated by humans. Even under the best of circumstances, humans make errors. I am involved in various projects investigating the types of errors that users make when using medical devices, as well as the predisposing factors that lead to error. The results of these studies will be used to improve the design of medical device interfaces such that they are less prone to human error.
Textbook Design: As a professor as well as a life-long learner, textbooks are an important part of my life. It is critical that we understand the impact that various textbook design features have on learning. Not all pedagogical aids found in textbooks actually aid the learning process; my studies provide evidence that some "aids" currently in use actually decrease the amount of information learned! In an ongoing series of textbook projects, I am studying the effects of seductive details, sentence structure, page layout, and the effects of color and other typographical cues, to name a few. These studies will result in determining design principles to guide authors and publishers in their efforts to develop textbooks that effectively facilitate learning.