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What Is Human Factors Psychology?

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Tim Rhodes

What is human factors Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behavior. 

 It’s a broad topic and may include subfields like human development, sports, health, social behavior, cognitive processes, and counseling.

To understand or work in psychology, you’ll need information and intensive learning and research in your field. 

Here we will be dealing with human factors psychology that does not deal with counseling, mental health, or psychological problems.

Human factors are a term synonymously used with ergonomics; ergonomics is mostly used in Europe, while Human factors are used in the United States.

It is a rapidly growing area in psychology that deals with determining how people interact with their environment, products, and objects in that environment.

The human factor is an area in psychology that deals with ergonomics, workplace safety, human error, product design, human capability, and human-computer interaction.

Table of Contents

The Basics Of Human Factors Psychology

Human factors psychology involves creating and improving products, equipment, machines, and the environment to supplement human capabilities, make the most of performance, and improve safety.

It works to relate psychology principles to designing products and creating a work environment that boosts productivity. 

The human factors psychology is dedicated to understanding how people interrelate with their environment and the products and objects in these environments.

The psychologists in this field devote their time to exploring and using what they know about human behavior, perception, attention, and cognition to create more functional products and work environments.

They research various topics to solve real-world problems that influence human performance.

Understanding this psychology may also help design programs and products used by health care specialists by understanding how people relate to those products.

This psychology may help reduce possible errors that may occur in the healthcare systems.

Creating a training program, improving productivity, and designing more reliable products is the aim of human factors psychology.

Additionally, this psychology creates ergonomic work stations that help reduce employee fatigue and injuries.

This psychology makes it possible to research ways to lower and reduce human errors.

The History Of Human Factors Psychology

In the United States, human factors and ergonomics are considered to have originated during World War II.

However, developments that led to its founding can be traced earlier than World War II at the beginning of the 20th century.

It was focused on designing the human to fit the machine, instead of designing the machine to fit the human.

Many of these developments originated from military necessity.

With the beginning of World War I, the main struggle to employ staff on the airplane that had just been brought in the war resulted in the need for methods to speedily select and train competent pilots.

This led to the development of aviation psychology and the commencement of aeromedical research.

Although advances were made during this period, the main reason for developing it wasn’t met due to a lack of “critical mass of technology and personnel as there was in World War II.”

There was a decline in research between World War I and World War II.

Nonetheless, some advances were made like the Aeromedical research continued in laboratories built at Brook Air Force Base.

The studies concentrated on ascertaining the characteristics of successful pilots and defining what effects environmental stressors had on flight performance.

The basics of anthropometry (the study of human body measurements) were applied to airplanes’ design during this time.

The private sector was also not left behind as automobile driving behavioral research was conducted by them.

World War II occurrence facilitated the development of human factors.

The need to employ enormous numbers of men and women made it difficult to select individuals for precise jobs.

Therefore, the attention shifted to designing people’s skills while reducing the negative consequences of their limitations.

 At this point, technological advances overtook people’s ability to adjust and compensate for their poor methods. 

Experimental psychologists continued their research on issues like airplane crashes and missed enemy contacts.

They adapted laboratory techniques to solve applied problems; hence, human factors and ergonomics were initiated.

Two decades after the end of World War II saw the continuance of military research laboratories established during the war, which were expanded and additional ones developed.

Universities with the help of government funding also established laboratories such as the University of Illinois (Aviation psychology Laboratory) and Ohio State University (Laboratory of Aviation Psychology).

The private sector established human factors and ergonomic groups in aviation companies, Electronic and communication companies.

The human factors society in the United States was formed in 1957, consisting of 90 members, and it has grown as today the society has more than 4500 members. 

From the mid-1960s, the human factors began to grow in the formerly popular areas.

It extended in other areas, including computer hardware, computer software, nuclear power plants, the internet, and adaptive technology.

Most new areas have emerged, including, neuro-ergonomics and nano-ergonomics.

The human factors psychology has continued to grow, and it now plays a significant role in fields like computing, engineering, and government industries.

Something that started as an indistinct breakaway of experimental psychology on the correlation of people and machinery has developed to incorporate almost any interaction of people with their surroundings.

The Difference Between Human Factor Psychology And Other Branches Of Psychology

Human factor psychology uses psychological science to advance and adjust technology equipment and work environment to supplement human behavior.

However, other branches of psychology show how the brain works and the brain’s structuralism and functionalism. 

Most psychology branches depend on academic research in university settings and mostly deal with individuals’ mental health.

However, Human factors psychology is 100 percent applied and is mostly conducted in the field.

The goal of the human factors psychologists is to solve problems that people encounter in their day to day activities and ensure safety, reduced human errors, and functionality improvements.

For instance, a human factors psychologist conducts research on a certain workplace product, such as internet functionality in an office.

After the investigations and examinations, the human factors psychologists will attempt to refurbish the internet or the internet connection easy usage and improve its connectivity.

On the other hand, other psychologists work based on the knowledge they have learned.

They will help solve your problem based on previous experiences of other people.

Human factors psychologists consult with architects and designers of consumer products while other psychologists mostly consult with their colleagues as their work involve understanding individuals.

Specialization Of Human Factors Psychology

Human factor psychology can be specialized in different areas.

A human factor psychologist may choose to specialize in a particular area.

Some of the areas they can specialize in include:

1. Human-Computer Interaction

The human-computer interaction studies the make and use of computer technology, based on the relationship between people and computers.

Researchers in this field observe how humans interrelate with computers and design technologies that allow people to interact with computers in different ways.

The human-computer interaction is based at the intersection of computer science, behavioral science, media studies, and design.

The concept of dialogue likens human-computer interaction with human to human interactions.

2. Cognitive Ergonomics

It is a subset of human factors and ergonomics that studies, assesses, and designs jobs, products, environments, and systems and how they interact with humans and their cognitive abilities.

According to the International Ergonomics Association, it is defined as “concerned with mental processes like perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system.

The topics covered in this include mental workload, decision making, skilled performance, and training, and they all relate to human-system design.

Cognitive ergonomics is the study of cognition in work and operational settings to optimize human well-being and system performance. 

3. Usability

Usability is a section in human factors psychology that is an essential component in every bio-medical device development project.

Usability starts at the product definition stage, having to design a product that is inventive and prevents human errors.

Building on the foundation through design research ensures the development of a safe and usable medical device that minimizes risks.

It is done by:

  • People recognizing expected use-related hazards
  • Individuals developing and delegating measures to decrease use-related hazards
  • Establishing that the device user interface design supports harmless and effective use by conducting usability testing

4. User experience engineering

User Experience Technology is all about selecting technology to confirm that users can achieve goals in ways that are enhanced to fit their abilities and skills.

Its technology is enhanced to ensure users are not restrained from the attention on technologies to a focus on the reason they have for using technology.

It mainly deals with the design layer of an application and steers away from the middle layer between the front and back end development.

5. Product Design

Products can only be used effectively if their designs consider the needs, abilities, and functional conceptualization of the projected users.

The users vary from vision, hearing, manual dexterity, strength, and reach.

Cognitive functions like attention, data processing, appreciation, and knowledge of hazards vary with the users.

The environment where a product is used may impact the user’s ability to interact with the product.

Methodologies have been applied to product designs to determine the services the product rendering for home use, workplace recreation, and health care. 

Human factors are applied to determine whether products should be changed or whether a change in design is necessary.

6. Error prevention

Error prevention involves human error management.

That is proactively preventing human error.

Therefore, to eliminate mistakes, we amend work processes so that it is impossible to make mistakes.

Continuous enhancement of work through human factors becomes a crucial part of the protection plan to find new opportunities for error-proofing your workplace.

7. Work Environment

Human factors psychology can be used to almost any situation that involves human working, products, and machine production and use.

Professionals in this field are involved in the incorporation of human-machine interaction in the workplace through designing.

These professionals are involved in the design from the beginning of a project, its development, additional instrumentation, and the final product and its safety; For Example, building software.

A human factor psychologist can work for government agencies to evaluate and design defense products or work in private companies to design and improve computers and software.

Other organizations that may hire human factors psychologists to include:

  • Federal state
  • Health care
  • Automotive companies
  • Aerospace
  • Telecommunication companies
  • Nuclear companies
  • Consumer produce
  • Consulting firms

Reasons To Study Human Factors Psychology

We’ve seen previously that human factors psychology uses scientific research to improve our living environments.

This is an interesting career that also offers many career paths.

When you break it down to the relationship between people and machines, people, and tasks and people and environments, you can see how wide the career is.

These psychologists study how people interrelate with technology and machines, and how human traits like vision, attention, and decision making to design machines and systems people can use correctly. 

These psychologists consult with architects, designers of consumer products like telephones and cameras.

They also confirm approaches for the design of tools and workplace environments that enhance performance and work safety.

Most of the careers in this field begin for those with a master’s degree and doctorates.

Career options exist in human performance experiences like testing. 

One may also work in industrial and organizational psychology and teaching positions.

A human factors psychologists earn a salary starting from $48’000 to $75,376 yearly.

Those in this career as private consultants with doctoral-level degrees earn an average of $179,160 annually.

Salaries are highest for those who are employed in the private sector.

Doctoral-level psychologists working for a profit business earned an average of $111,368 annually.

Those in the academia field earned an average of $ 29,614 annually, and those employed by the government earned an average of $107,314.

Those who have acquired master’s degrees and work in a business setting earned an average of $90,164; those in university settings earned $75,150.

Those working in government institutions and have master’s degree salary is $90,500 annually.

The degree of Human factors psychology includes theory, practical, application, and research.

To get an advanced program admission, you’ll need an undergraduate degree in psychology, industrial engineering, occupational therapy, human performance, or other related products.

You’ll also need a GPA of 3.0 or more with minimum GRE scores.

 Topics In Human factors Psychology

there are different topics that are included in human factors psychology and they can be described as the following:

1. Cognition

It is a scientific discipline that studies evaluate, design environments and systems, and relate with humans and their cognitive abilities.

It is concerned with mental processes such as memory, reasoning, and motor response.

2. Instructional Message Design

Instructional message design explores how media and delivery systems can be used more effectively to optimize instructional communication and improve learner needs. 

3. Human Abilities And Limitations In Specific Work Areas

It involves the human factor psychologists exploring peoples working in specific environments.

They explore the mental and physical capabilities and limitations of people and use them in the design, evaluation, and maintenance of products. 

4. Use Of Virtual Reality In Employee Training

It involves the computer-generated representation of physical worlds; with this training, employees absorb information faster, and the information is retained more.

It helps workers and employees sharpen and better their skills.

By using virtual reality, you save more since you don’t need to hire trainers.

5. Graphic Design

Graphic design in ergonomics and human factors refers to aspects that affect the design of products, systems, and environments.

The aspects are influenced by the use of anthropometric, psychological, and sensory data examination methods.

6. Educational Technology

The development of educational technologies provides learning and instruction in computer science.

It enables one to implement these principles in innovation technologies.

Human factors education has evolved from training in experimental psychology to specialized human factors programs.

Final Thoughts

The Human Factors field is a field that is on the rise, and with it, there is an increase in opportunities.

People interested in designs and human-computer interactions and research this is the right field for you.

These psychologists act as consultants; they consult with engineers, computer science specialists, and consumer product designers. 

However, for a successful career having a master’s or a doctorate is important; this way, you can work for government institutions or successful private institutions.

The main purpose of the human factors psychologist is to ensure an error-free working environment or reduce human errors.

As we’ve seen from World War II trying to improve airplane safety and recent times as human factors psychology continue to grow.

The article will give you a clear view of what Human factors psychology is and its understanding.

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