Use fMRI imaging will test human reaction to repetition of computer warnings. This data will then be used to create computer security warning messages that are resilient to repetition and suppression, thus increasing users’ computer security.
Start: 1 September 2014
End: 31 August 2016
Contract Terms: National Science Foundation
- Principal Investigator: Bonnie Anderson
- Co-Pis: Anthony Vance, Brock Kirwan
- Website: All findings will be available through security.byu.edu/data after completion of the study.
Warning messages are one of the only things that help users keep their computers secure. The biggest contributing factor as to why users often ignore these warnings is best described using the psychological term “habituation”, or lack of attention due to frequent exposure. This project intends to observe habituation as it occurs using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with experiments of repetition suppression, or showing something so repetitively it suppresses the brain’s reaction. After these tests occur it will then be the focus of the project to design warnings that are resistant to the effects of habituation and improve users’ abilities to keep their computers secure. This project will be accomplished with the cross-disciplinary collaboration of students and professors. Their results will be presented through conferences also of a cross-disciplinary nature.
Three significant research contributions give this projects its intellectual merit. The first is the measurement of how habituation occurs in the brain using fMRI. The second contribution is the examination of how habituation develops over time. Lastly, the third contribution will be to use the research collected to build security warnings that are unaffected by habituation. Overall, this proposal breaks new ground by using neuroscience to examine how the repetition suppression effect leads to habituation, as well as guide the development and testing of security warnings that are more resistant to habituation.
This project impacts the common computer user as researchers study how to make more effective security warnings. Intuitive security measures, those that users are more likely to heed, will provide increased protection of private information. Graduate and undergraduate students will be mentored during the duration of this project, allowing them to work alongside faculty members. This mentorship will not only advance teaching and learning at Brigham Young University, but is a cross-disciplinary study, allowing students to work with peers and professors that might be beneficial to collaborative with for future careers and studies. The findings will also be presented through conferences on human-computer interaction, decision neuroscience, and information systems. These groups include the Utah Technology Council, Silicon Slopes, and AIM Utah.