Pointing and Calling…and Encoding!
It would be redundant to establish again the huge role that human error has in traffic, railway and airline accidents. For the last 100 years, the Japanese railway system has had in place,an error prevention technique, called “Shisa Kanko” or “Pointing and Calling”. To illustrate, both the engine driver and conductor look at the oncoming signal and confirm that it’s green. Then in a clear voice, they would say loudly, “Signal is Green”, draw their finger back, point at the signal and say “Okay”. The theory being that hearing your own voice and engaging the muscles of the mouth and arm stimulates the brain, making you more alert. And it works. This combination of Pointing and Calling has reduced mistakes by almost 85%, according to the Japan Industrial Safety and Health Association.
Let us now consider an essential component of memory – encoding. Any information first has to be transformed to a memory representation. Encoding occurs automatically when any stimulus is attended to and processed. The Levels of Processing Theory proposed by Craik and Tulving (1974) states that stimulus processing ranges from superficial to deeper and more elaborative levels. Further, the deeper the processing is, the stronger the encoding. For example, semantic processing actively relates incoming information to knowledge already stored in the brain. This therefore,constitutes a deeper level of processing than the phonological level, which relates to the sounds of words and their corresponding organization, which in turn is at a deeper level of processing than the structural level, which involves only perceptual processing.
The Japanese, with their pointing and calling system, have clearly moved past the shallower encoding stage, where they simply observe oncoming events, to the phonological level where they engage speech and sounds of the stimulus words. Better still, capturing the motor faculties further attention-direction which is another essential requirement for effective encoding. An excellent example of a simple but effective system, built on pure behaviour, working at a non-conscious level. The better we understand how our brain functions at a fundamental level, the better we will be able to design solutions to the behavioural problems that are abound in our everyday lives.