Cognitive Task Analysis Running head: COGNITIVE TASK ANALYSIS 1 Cognitive Task Analysis Jennifer Maddrell Old Dominion University IDT 873 Advanced Instructional Design Techniques Dr. Gary Morrison October 15, 2008 Cognitive Task Analysis Traditional Task Analysis A traditional procedural task analysis describes a task as a series of discrete actions (Jonassen, Tessmer, & Hannum, 1999). Figure 1 diagrams a procedural task analysis for the insurance underwriting submission review task. Within this triage task, the underwriter must evaluate various aspects of the new submission and decide whether to quote or decline the submission. Figure 1. Procedural Analysis of Insurance Underwriting Submission Review Task. 2 Guide to symbols: = Input and exit point; = Mental operation; = Decision Point; = Direction in Step Cognitive Task Analysis 3 As depicted in Figure 1, in completing the submission review task, the underwriter must make a series of mental operations and decisions in route to a conclusion to either a) decline the submission or b) quote the submission. These mental operations and subsequent decisions include the following: Assessing the viability of the opportunity. Upon receipt of the submission, the underwriter must make a quick review of the information provided to assess the viability of the opportunity. Given the information presented within the submission and discussions with the broker, the underwriter must judge the likelihood the account will actually leave the incumbent carrier. Critical cues to consider include prior service and claims handling problems with the incumbent carrier, time to transition the account, and completeness of the submission. If the relationship with the prior carrier has been good, there is little time to transition the account, or the broker only provided enough information to provide a price (not service) quote, it is likely the insured is not serious about moving from the incumbent carrier and the broker is just seeking comparative price quotes. However, if the insured is dissatisfied with the incumbent carrier’s service, there is ample time to transition the servicing of the account, or the submission provides a comprehensive overview of both price and service requirements, it is likely the opportunity is viable. If the assessment of the information leads to a conclusion that the chances are slim the account will move, the underwriter makes the decision to decline the account. However, if the assessments leads to a conclusion that there is a good chance of writing the account, the underwriter makes the decision to continue working on the account. Examining the employee concentrations. Given the potentially catastrophic exposure of providing casualty insurance at locations with high employee concentrations, the underwriter’s triage of the submission includes an examination of employee concentrations. If the insured has employee concentrations at any one location above company guidelines, the underwriter makes the decision to decline the account. Otherwise, the underwriter makes the decision to continue working on the account. Comparing the account’s exposures to the company’s underwriting guidelines. Upon receipt of the submission, the underwriter must compare the prospective account’s exposures to the insurance company’s underwriting guidelines. Critical to this comparison is a review of the insured’s current and prior operations. If the company is involved in any operations which result in exposures that are against the underwriting guidelines, the underwriter makes the decision to decline the account. Otherwise, the underwriter makes the decision to move forward with the quotation task (beyond the scope of this submission triage task analysis). Cognitive Task Analysis A cognitive task analysis (CTA) offers an alternative means of describing the cognitive elements of the evaluation and decision making processes involved in the task. The following provides the results of an Applied Cognitive Task Analysis (ACTA) based on interviews conducted with an underwriting subject matter expert (SME) to gain information about cognitive strategies used to complete the submission triage task (Militello & Hutton, 1998). The ACTA includes a task diagram, knowledge audit table, simulation interview, and cognitive demands table. Cognitive Task Analysis 4 Task diagram Figure 2 is the task diagram generated after an initial interview with the underwriting SME. The task diagram offers a high level overview of the submission triage task which focuses on the most difficult cognitive aspects. The SME was asked, “Think about what you do when you triage a new prospect. Can you break this task down into less than six, but more than three steps?” The SME mentioned five steps, but one was eliminated (financial approval) as it is not task performed by underwriter. Figure 2. Task Diagram for New Account Prospect Triage. Knowledge Audit Table During interviews with the SME, the interviewer probed for concrete examples, cues and strategies, and reasons why the task is often difficult for novices. The interviewer asked the SME to focus on specific examples for each aspect of expertise. Table 1 summarizes the results of the knowledge audit for the submission triage task. Simulation Interview During a simulation interview with the SME, the interviewer asked the SME to focus on the challenging aspects of a specific representative scenario associated with new submission triage. Table 2 summarizes the results of the simulation interview, including the actions, assessments, cues, and potential errors identified for each central event. Cognitive Demands Table Table 3 consolidates and synthesizes the data collected during the interview process. The cognitive demands table centers on the common themes that came from the interviews and identifies the difficult cognitive elements, common errors, and cues or strategies used by experts to overcome these challenges. Cognitive Task Analysis Table 1. Knowledge Audit Table. Aspect of expertise Past and future Example: Call from broker about account where incumbent carrier messed up on claim and insured’s legal department insisting the account must move. 5 • • Cues and strategies High level nature of incumbent mess up Level of people involved in decision (low level versus high level) • • Why Difficult? Novice may not recognize significance of messed up claim handling Novice may not link level of insured to severity of problem Novice may not link severity of problem to increased chance of writing account. Novices may not consider other issues beyond price that influence buying decision Novices do not have relationship with broker to know when you are getting the “straight” facts versus a “sales pitch” Novices may get into the minutia of the account specifics and not step back and realize the timeframe is not feasible to actually move the account Novices are focused on details within submission Novices are familiar with “outside” considerations that affect the likelihood of writing the account • • • • Big picture Example: Steps back from all the facts about the account presented by the broker to consider what is the “real” motivation behind looking for a quote? Is this prospect a true opportunity or does the broker just need a competing price quote? If it is only a need to get competing price quotes, highly unlikely the account will move. Noticing Example: Broker not soliciting TPA quotes for claim handling which would be a #1 condition of actually moving the account. Job Smarts Example: Focus on what broker said in conversation versus purely what is presented in the quote. Opportunities Example: Our unit can’t work on this account, but other units in company can. Anomalies Example: Broker doesn’t return phone calls. Shows a lack of interest. • • • • Beyond price, there service issues with prior carrier Your personal history with that broker. Time frame to release quote What other carriers are quoting • • • • • Going beyond underwriting information presented in the submission Considering conditional things that impact your quote Timeframes Others carriers being asked to quote. Reasons for leaving Understanding of underwriting appetite of other units Knowing how to access those people Timing of returned phone calls Extent of response to questions • • • • • • • • • Novices tend to be preoccupied with verifying details within submission Novices not aware of situational issues that can be “deal breakers” or “deal makers” Novices don’t know underwriting appetite of other units Novices don’t know people outside of the unit Novices may not recognize they are “getting blown off” and they continue working on submission • • Cognitive Task Analysis (either lacking or detailed) 6 • Novices don’t recognize significance of “out of sight / out of mind” which is signal if you are alive or dead Table 2. Simulation Interview. Events Discussion about prospect with broker Actions Ask probing questions about opportunity Sensing tone from broker of urgency and desire to have you quote. Assessment Answers to question make sense or not with what is in the submission Broker wants to work with you or just wants a quote for comparison purposes How much time is there between now and effective date? Are the exposures inherent in risk acceptable under our underwriting guidelines? Critical Cues Can you meet the issued There is disaffection with incumbent Openness of the broker Willingness to provide additional information Too much time signals the broker is “shopping” for an early quote. Too little time signals that broker just wants to keep current carrier “honest” “Red flag” exposures that we cannot write “Go” classes of business that we are targeting Potential Errors Being overly optimistic about any opportunity Not probing deeply for hidden facts about situation Not reading the verbal and nonverbal cues the broker is giving you. • • • • • • • • • • • Deciding whether to quote • • Evaluating time frame between quote deadline and effective date Assessing if account meets underwriting guidelines • • • • • • • • • Being so excited about the opportunity that you rush to judgment Spin wheels on accounts where there isn’t a true opportunity Don’t dig deeply enough into what the account really does or did in the past that could represent “hidden” exposures Cognitive Task Analysis 7 Cognitive Task Analysis 8 Table 3. Cognitive Demands Table. Difficult cognitive elements Assessing whether broker’s answers make sense or not with what is in the submission Considering the “real” opportunity and exposures beyond the obvious information given in the submission Comparing account’s exposure information with underwriting guidelines Why difficult Common errors Cues and strategies used • • Consider if you really know the story behind the story Get and keep the broker talking to elicit information beyond the submission Ask about reasons why account would move Consider whether timeframe to move account is realistic • • • • • • • Considering and suggesting alternatives • • Novice underwriters tend to focus on basic facts in the submission versus what the broker is telling them Brokers reluctant to voluntarily air dirty laundry about account Novices underwriters tend to focus on information given versus information needed to make decision Can be uncomfortable situation for novice underwriters to probe for answers Companies often have many types of operations which cross several classes of business Novice underwriters tend to focus on the primary business operations Novice underwriters often have difficult assigning an account to the appropriate business classification within the guidelines. Novice underwriters tend to focus on what broker is asking you to do Novice underwriters often fail to identify ways to adjust quotation options to meet guidelines • • Don’t recognize or probe for hidden “red flags” Focus exclusively on information in submission Taking the submission at “face value” Failing to engage in uncomfortable probing conversations with the broker Failing to fully capture exposures Getting lost in the details Misinterpreting underwriting data Misinterpreting the underwriting guidelines • • • • • • • • • Review account with senior underwriter Check multiple sources to evaluate exposures • • • Quote only what is asked by broker Failing to probe for alternate opportunities with the broker • • Consider ways to adjust quotation options to fit within underwriting guidelines. Consider other coverages and limits that you or other departments could quote Cognitive Task Analysis Comparison of Approaches 9 Analysis Comparison In comparing the results of the traditional task analysis with the cognitive task analysis, significant differences emerge in following areas: a) the identification and analysis of hidden cognitive processes, b) the relative level of elaboration regarding the central task elements, c) the focus on expert and novice differences. Overt behaviors versus cognitive processes. The key strength of the traditional task analysis is the ability to examine overt behaviors required to complete a task. However, as seen in this example, additional critical cognitive processes and actions were uncovered within the ACTA. Further, the ACTA offered a means of analyzing the relative significance and difficulty of the required task elements. Level of elaboration. The traditional task analysis identified the relevant processes and decision points in the submission triage task. However, by focusing on the difficult cognitive aspects of the task, the ACTA provided greater elaboration with regard to the knowledge and cognitive processes required to perform the task. As the cognitive demands table highlights, the ACTA focused attention on the difficult cognitive elements, common errors, and strategies to overcome those difficulties and errors. Unfortunately, these elements were not unearthed within the traditional task analysis. Focus on expert and novice differences. Unlike the traditional task analysis, the ACTA analysis focused on the central differences between how an expert and a novice perform the submission triage task. The result is a comparison of current state (novices) and desired state (experts), as well as strategies to take the novice to an expert level. Implications for Practice Traditional task analysis allows practitioners to target the inputs, central operations, and decision points involved in carrying out a task. While this provides a good overview of what happens as the task is carried out, it does not provide the designer with an understanding of the nature of the cognitive processes required to complete the task. Further, following a traditional task analysis, the practitioner cannot gage the relative importance of the various tasks elements or which aspect(s) of the task are harder for the novice. As seen in the results between the two analyses, the cognitive task analysis provides practitioners with a better understanding of the difficult and critical cognitive processes, as well as the and cues and strategies, which are central to successful completion of the task. When to use Traditional Task Analysis versus Cognitive Task Analysis Both a traditional task analysis and cognitive task analysis highlight key aspects of the task. However, as seen in the two analyses above, each produces different results. As noted, the cognitive task analysis offers a better analysis of the central knowledge and decision making cognitive processes. Given that each task is different, the following provides a comparison of which analysis is more appropriate based on the degree of observable behaviors, the degree of required expertise, and the relative cognitive difficulty of the task. Cognitive Task Analysis 10 Degree of observable behaviors. The difference in outcomes between the two approaches is likely less significant when the task involves primarily observable behaviors. However, if the task involves primarily mental actions that result in less observable behaviors, a cognitive task analysis is the more appropriate option. Expert versus novice differences. When little task related expertise is required to perform the task, the results of both analyses would likely be similar. However, if successful completion of the task requires knowledge that a novice would not possess, a cognitive task analysis allows the practitioner to uncover or drill down on the difficult cognitive elements. As noted, these cognitive elements are less likely to be adequately analyzed in a traditional task analysis. Relative cognitive difficulty. While a traditional task analysis provides a comprehensive outline of the steps in the task, it does not offer a relative assessment of which steps are harder or more critical to successful completion. Instead, each step in the task is considered equally. However, as seen in the cognitive demands table, some tasks hinge on a smaller number of critical or difficult elements. Therefore, the ACTA is more appropriate when successful task outcomes depend upon cognitively difficult judgments or decision. Cognitive Task Analysis 11 References Jonassen, D. H., Tessmer, M., & Hannum, W. H. (1999). Task analysis methods for instructional design. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates. Militello, L. G., & Hutton, R. J. B. (1998). Applied cognitive task analysis (ACTA): a practitioner’s toolkit for understanding cognitive task demands. Ergonomics, 41(11), 1618-1641.