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Human Factors Journal celebrates 50 years

SANTA MONICA, CA - In celebration of 50 years of publishing groundbreaking research, the June issue of Human Factors features 33 papers that highlight pivotal research and significant discoveries in the field of Human Factors/ergonomics (HF/E). The entire online issue is available without charge from HFES.

For over half a century, HF/E professionals have been making important contributions to the safety and efficiency of systems, environments, tools, and products. As noted by Editor Nancy J. Cooke in the preface to the Golden Anniversary Special Issue, this collection "makes an impressive case for the field's significant but often unrecognized contributions to the usability, effectiveness, and safety of a vast array of modern systems in which technology and humans must interact. Automobiles, aircraft, and power plants are safer; computer hardware and software are easier to use; training and education are more effective; physical work produces fewer injuries" (p. 347). All thanks to the work of HF/E researchers and practitioners.

Following three retrospectives by past Human Factors editors, eight pivotal research areas are identified that laid important foundations for work to follow. Among these is an article focusing on a 1984 paper by Liles and colleagues that, by documenting "work exposure through job observation and measurement" (Marras, p. 394), influenced later studies of the work-related causes of low back pain. Numerous papers published in the journal between 1964 and 1986 - including a pivotal 1970 article on electronic systems maintenance by Nick Bond - have "contributed, ultimately, to more effective maintenance performance" (Harris, p. 375). Two papers (1979 and 1972) on how drivers fixate on and process visual information have been "a cornerstone for myriad driving-related studies" (Shinar, p. 380); such studies - particularly in naturalistic driving scenarios - remain critically important in mitigating errors and accidents caused by driver distraction.

A 1997 Human Factors article, "Humans and Automation: Use, Misuse, Disuse, and Abuse," has been widely cited in work on the human-automation relationship. John Lee (pp. 404-410), who reviews the influence of that article, points out how it demonstrated that "even though automation seems to relieve people of tasks, automation requires more, not less, attention to training" and that the authors "foresaw and inspired research that addresses overreliance and underreliance on automation."

The 22 articles that make up the third section of the Golden Anniversary Special Issue focus on discoveries and developments in research and application. Some of the topics addressed in those articles include the following.

Laughery and Wogalter (pp. 529-533) describe that a driving factor in research on safety warnings is forensics. The demand for research on which forensic expert witnesses can draw to explain why accidents happen has spurred growth in the publication of work that can help to inform the courts.

Since the early 1980s, papers published in Human Factors regarding the interaction of people and computers have grown in influence internationally. Deborah Boehm-Davis (pp. 560-564) notes how research about the human-computer interface has led to the development of guidelines, standards, prototyping tools, user interface management systems, and methods for evaluating performance.

Vigilance is hard work, summarizes Joel Warm and colleagues in their special issue contribution (pp. 443-441). These and other authors published a number of papers proving that, contrary to earlier beliefs, even simple tasks can be "exacting, capacity-draining assignments" that "are associated with a considerable level of subjective workload and stress." This research has been applied recently to areas such as baggage security screening.


Contact: Lois Smith
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

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