Human factors

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See also The Human Factor (disambiguation).

"Human factors" is an umbrella term for several areas of research that include human performance, technology, design, and human-computer interaction. It is a profession that focuses on how people interact with products, tools, procedures, and any processes likely to be encountered in the modern world.

The term 'human factors' is used mainly in the United States. Variants include "human factors engineering", an extension of an earlier phrase, "human engineering". In Europe and the rest of the world, the term "ergonomics" is more prevalent. Cognitive ergonomics is another term used.

Human factors practitioners can come from a variety of backgrounds; though predominantly they are Psychologists (Cognitive, Perceptual, and Experimental) and Engineers. Designers (Industrial, Interaction, and Graphic), Anthropologists, Technical communication Scholars and Computer Scientists also contribute.

Whereas ergonomics tends to focus on the anthropometrics for optimal human-machine interaction, human factors is more focused on the cognitive and perceptual factors.

Areas of interest for human factors practitioners may include the following:
workload, fatigue, situational awareness, usability, user interface, learnability, attention, vigilance, human performance, human reliability, human-computer interaction, control and display design, stress, visualization of data, individual differences, aging, accessibility, safety, shift work, work in extreme environments including virtual environments, human error, and decision making.

Simply put, human factors involves working to make the environment function in a way that seems natural to people. Although the terms "human factors" and "ergonomics" have only been widely known in recent times, the field's origin is in the design and use of aircraft during World War II to improve aviation safety.

[edit] The human-machine model

The simple man-machine model provides a convenient way for organizing some of the major concerns of human engineering: the selection and design of machine displays and controls; the layout and design of workplaces; design for maintainability; and the work environment.

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Human factors

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