The Optometry department is conducting research on the benefits of backlit and non-backlit screens, however the details of the study are being kept secret to avoid the Hawthorne effect.
The Hawthorne effect is based on a previous research project at Hawthorne Works, a western electric factory near Chicago in the early 1900s. The workers being experimentally measured had modified their behavior because they knew they were being studied. In the same way, much of the information of the project cannot be revealed in the event that someone could then modify his or her behavior and skew the results.
There are two types of screens being evaluated and compared in this study; Liquid Crystal Display and Electronic-Ink. LCD uses backlight to show pictures and text on a screen. The dark areas of pictures and text then are like little to no light in that area of the screen, giving the illusion of writing. E-Ink is a technology used today with such items like Amazon’s Kindle. It does not use backlighting and is perceived more like ink on paper. These two screens have pros and cons to each of them that will be weighted against each other in the research.
The principal investigator, Dr. Yuichi Tai, and her team are comparing how well the two types of screens work under different lighting conditions. They are also observing the reading behaviors of participants. The researchers will be monitoring visual discomfort and a variety of other measures under various lighting behaviors. Electromyography sensors will be used to measure muscle activity while the participant takes part in the study.
Microsoft is helping fund the project because it could improve their products and increase user comfort. It will also help them develop new and different types of LCD screens for consumers.
This study, like the other optometry research projects needs volunteers. Students who wish to participate could earn $10 per hour. Just sign up online through Pacific’s Optometry Vision Performance Institute page.