Psychophysiology in Ergonomics: Preface to the Special Section

By Trimmel, Michael; Wright, Nicola et al. | Human Factors, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Psychophysiology in Ergonomics: Preface to the Special Section


Trimmel, Michael, Wright, Nicola, Backs, Richard W., Human Factors


This special section of Human Factors is dedicated to the topic of psychophysiology in ergonomics. The usage of psychophysiological methods provides additional information to behavioral data and subjective ratings of cognitive and emotional experience. In particular, physiological measures are objective indications of physiological responses associated with arousal-related aspects of behavior as well as mental processes. Moreover, most physiological measures can be captured during the time course of interest and provide a "real-time image" of the human response--to some extent dependent on the respective technique--without undue intrusion to the task that the person is performing. Although one might expect that physiological responses are just an objective indication of subjective experiences, this is not necessarily the case, because in some instances compensatory mechanisms occur without the person's awareness, and these can be investigated by analyzing physiological activity.

The contributions in this issue are not a guided tour to the advantages and/or disadvantages of the various methods, and they also do not constitute a representative sample of useful applications of physiological methods in the field of human factors. For the reader interested in basic theories, proven methods, and usefulness of the diverse physiological parameters, references are given to Andreassi (1995) and Cacioppo, Tassinary, and Berntson (2000) for psychophysiological techniques and responses in general and to Backs and Boucsein (2000) for the application in engineering psychology/ergonomics/ human factors in particular.

Psychophysiological studies of the work environment are a growing field, as indicated not only by regular submissions to appropriate journals but also by special issues of major scientific journals during recent years, including Biological Psychology, Ergonomics, and the International Journal of Psychophysiology. These issues were initiated and sponsored by the activity of the Psychophysiology in Ergonomics (PIE) group, a technical group of the International Ergonomics Association and an interest group of the Society for Psychophysiological Research. PIE also regularly sponsors international scientific conferences to foster interdisciplinary cooperation between psychologists and ergonomists.

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