Cognitive Engineering in the Aviation Domain

Cognitive Engineering in the Aviation Domain

Cognitive Engineering in the Aviation Domain

Cognitive Engineering in the Aviation Domain


Although cognitive engineering has gained widespread acceptance as one of the most promising approaches to addressing and preventing difficulties with human-machine coordination and collaboration, it still meets with considerable skepticism and resistance in some of the industries that could benefit from its insights and recommendations. The challenge for cognitive engineers is to better understand the reasons underlying these reservations and to overcome them by demonstrating and communicating more effectively their concepts, approaches, and proposed solutions. To contribute to this goal, the current volume presents concrete examples of cognitive engineering research and design. It is an attempt to complement the already existing excellent literature on cognitive engineering in domains other than aviation and to introduce professionals and students in a variety of domains to this rather young discipline. The editors of this book, and the authors whose work is included, subscribe to the need to evaluate work in context. Accepting new paradigms for the study of humans working in complex environments, they view the human as an asset--indeed a necessity--in human-machine systems and they accept and take advantage of variations in human behavior. In addition, they recognize that much or most error is the result of mismatches between human capabilities and the demands placed on those humans by the machines which they use in the environments in which they are placed. As a whole, this volume illustrates how far we've come in understanding the cognitive bases of human work in complex human-machine systems.


Charles E. Billings, M.D. The Ohio State University

This volume illustrates how far we have come, in a very short period of time, in our understanding of the cognitive bases of human work in complex humanmachine systems. In a few decades, we have moved from studies of human behavior based on elegant theories, but evaluated in grossly simplified empirical studies in relatively sterile environments, to studies based on a more ecological view of the human embedded in a complex world, based on ethnographic studies in which the world of work is taken as it comes, with all of its richness and variance, and humans are recognized as adaptive organisms, learning from their experiences, tailoring their working environments and their own performance to meet the requirements of the tasks they are given.

Humans have been phenomenally successful in meeting those requirements, even using tools that may not be conducive to success, in environments that are dangerous or poorly controlled. Yet our studies until comparatively recently have usually been of human performance failures, and of the human shortcomings that contribute to such failures. We have too often failed to recognize that successful performance is the norm, and performance failures are rare. There are not enough good studies of why humans succeed despite the handicaps they may face. It has taken us even longer to recognize that expertise and error are opposite faces of the same coin, and that the same factors that usually contribute to successful performance may, under unusual circumstances, enable failures of performance.

To begin to understand success and failure in complex, real-time human -- machine systems involving risk and danger, we have had to look beyond the human, into the environments in which persons attempt to perform useful work. We have been forced to look beyond the immediate circumstances of accidents, catastrophes, disasters: to examine the physical, organizational, and social environments in which work is performed, the tools that are provided to support that performance, the machines that accomplish the work, the policies and procedures that guide humans in their control of those machines, and the training and education provided to workers to give them the expertise necessary to exert that control. We have had to test our hypotheses in much more difficult experiments in which the context of . . .

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