Human Factors

What is Human Factors?

The terms human factors and ergonomics are closely associated with engineering psychology, the study of human performance in the operation of systems. Human factors psychologists and engineers are concerned with anything that affects the performance of system operators—whether hardware, software, or liveware. They are involved both in the study and application of principles of ergonomic design to equipment and operating procedures and in the scientific selection and training of operators.

The goal of ergonomics is to optimize machine design for human operation, and the goal of selection and training is to produce people who get the best performance possible within machine design limitations.

Human factors specialists are concerned first with the distribution of system functions among people and machines. System functions are identified through the analysis of system operations. Human factors analysts typically work backward from the goal or desired output of the system to determine the conditions that must be satisfied if the goal is to be achieved. Next they predict—on the basis of relevant, validated theory or actual experimentation with simulated systems—whether the functions associated with each subgoal can be satisfied more reliably and economically with automation or human participation.

Source: Proctor, R. & Vu, K. Handbook of Human Factors in Web Design, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New Jersey, 2005. 3.