Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview

Section Nine ENGINEERING PSYCHOLOGY

Introduction

THE GROWING AWARENESS that man and machines function in relation to each other has led to a branch of applied science known as "engineering psychology." This field deals with ways of designing machines, operations, and work environments so that they match human capacities and limitations. Various other terms have been used, more or less interchangeably, to label this field, including human engineering, applied experimental psychology, biomechanics, and ergonomics.

Much of the recent research in this field grew out of military necessity, since the development of increasingly complex weapon and support systems required better information on the human capacities needed to perform them. Today, engineering psychology is prominent in many diverse fields in industry. Psychologists contribute to the design of household appliances, guided-missile control panels, radar scopes, artificial limbs, telephone sets, electronic computers, semiautomatic post office equipment, jet aircraft cockpits, and numerous other industrial machines.

The articles in this section require little introduction since they include the best statements available on the concepts, definition, scope, and typical problems in the field. The article by Mead, "A Program of Human Engineering," gives some of the history in the development of the field, offers a definition which distinguishes it from related areas, and outlines some typical problems and results obtained in human engineering research on displays, controls, systems, and optimal environment.

In Taylor article, "Psychology and the Design of Machines," we get a highly sophisticated treatment of the man-machine systems concept. Taylor's article represents the "new look" in engineering psychology with its emphasis on man as "an organic data transmission and processing link" inserted between the mechanical or electronic displays and controls of a machine. Here we encounter the notions of man as an information channel, a multipurpose computer, and a feedback control system. This

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