A Few Implications of an Ecological Approach to Human Factors
Kim J. Vicente University of Toronto
Recently, a relatively new approach to human factors based on an ecological perspective has been receiving an increasing amount of attention ( Flach, 1989, 1990; Gaver, 1991; Kirlik, Miller, & Jagacinski, 1993; Vicente, 1991; Vicente & Rasmussen, 1990, 1992). Some have argued that an ecological approach to human factors is necessary if the gap between the worlds of basic research and applied design are to be bridged. A perspective that claims to contribute to the integration of basic and applied concerns deserves serious consideration. The specific purpose of this chapter is to describe in detail the additional benefits of adopting an ecological approach to human factors. First, a general overview of the ecological approach is presented. The remainder of the chapter will be structured into four sections. The first three sections outline the implications of the ecological perspective for human performance modeling, task analysis, and human factors experimentation. The final section provides an example from the area of cognitive engineering illustrating how application of the ecological approach to human factors can lead to fruitful research.
The ecological perspective takes its name from an approach to psychology that was advanced first by Brunswik ( 1956) and subsequently by Gibson ( 1966, 1979). Although differing in the details