Psychological Aspects of German Signal Words in Evacuation Warnings

Conference paper


Signal words in evacuation warnings have an alerting and informing function related to the degree of danger. The psycho-acoustic urgency of the signal word used should match the contextual urgency (urgency mapping). In two experiments, characteristics of five German signal words were tested in the context of underground transportation systems. Participants rated the dimensions semantic field, urgency and explicitness for the German signal words. The German signal words were presented individually (exp. 1) or embedded in different loud speaker announcements with varying voice styles (exp. 2). As expected the ranking order for urgency was the same as for explicitness. Data showed that “Gefahr” is perceived as most urgent and most explicit. “Hinweis” is least urgent and least explicit. For the other three signal words used (“Vorsicht”, “Warnung”, “Achtung”) no clear order was found. “Achtung” is familiar in German announcements and warnings which influenced the ratings. Conclusions for the design of evacuation announcements are drawn.


Spoken warning Signal word Urgency Explicitness Semantic field Evacuation 



The paper uses data from the diploma thesis “Deutsche Signalwörter in Warnungen” by Tina Zink [20] which was written as part of the joint research project OrGaMIRPLUS, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. One of the aims of the project is to investigate aspects of human factors in evacuations of underground transportation systems, especially warnings and alarms and emergency route design. Special thanks go to Prof. Dr. A. Zimmer, Department of Applied Psychology, University of Regensburg.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Intercultural Business CommunicationFriedrich-Schiller-Universität JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany

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