Failure to Save

“typically, of the order of one loss per person per year”.

Do you think forgetting to save works is just a matter of unfortunate chance? If you think so, you might have to think again.

Two British researchers, Jones from Warwick and Martin from Oxford, conducted an experiment study looking at the relationship between failure to save and general level of “susceptibility to cognitive failure” by using 25 items of Brodbent et al.’s Cognitive Failure Questionnaire (CFQ). The questionnaire is usually used in relation to physical injury and accident.

“It was found that those individuals who are more likely to lose their computing work are also more prone to cognitive failure in general…

[I]t may be inferred that it is systematic individual variation in attentional control processes” (p. 866)

One item is best predicted the number of computer losses which is “Do you find you accidentally throw away the thing you want and keep what you meant to throw away the think you want and keep what you meant to throw away?”

The study also tried to find the relationship between handedness (left-handed vs. right handed) and the failure. However, there are too few left-handed subjects to conclude the hypothesis. Also there is NO substantial relationship with the injury by falling or jumping from a high place.

I think the other items in the questionnaire [download the questionnaire (PDF) from York University’s Psychological Tests for Student Use maintained by Professor Ron Okada] to the are also interesting in the sense that they happen in our eveyday life. For example, do you read something and find you haven’t been thinking about it and must read it again? Do you fail to listen to people’s names when you are meeting them? Do you say something and realize afterwards that it might be taken as insulting?

The paper discuss the role of this kind of research with the issue of HCI. However, I could imagine this type of resources helpful to supplement digital preservation studies, especially in everyday life context.


Jones, G. V. & Martin, M. (2003). Individual differences in failing to save everyday computing work. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17, 861-868.

[via Improbable Research and the Guardian]


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