The Human Factor

Commentary
9:00 am
Tue May 28, 2013

The Human Factor: That's Not Science!

A phrenology diagram from the People's Cyclopedia of Universal Knowledge (1883).
Credit Wikipedia

Throughout history snake oil salesmen have tried and succeeded at duping people with pseudo scientific nonsense:

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

The Human Factor: A Bad Driver Or Just A Bad Day?

Credit GenBug / flickr Creative Commons

The Fundamental Attribution Error is a concept derived from the field of social psychology. We are all guilty for committing this error.

As an example, try to think of a time that someone cut you off in traffic, or didn’t use their signal, or pulled out in front of you. Or maybe that time the wait staff at your favorite restaurant wasn’t quite nice. You were probably angry, frustrated and would have loved the opportunity to give that driver or waiter a piece of your mind.

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The Human Factor
12:13 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

The Human Factor: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat

Credit D-Side / flickr Creative Commons

You may have heard of British neurologist Oliver Sacks’ book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.

At the heart of that story was a disease called prosopagnosia, or as it’s more commonly called, face blindness. A person with face blindness can no longer process the visual information that allows them to recognize a face.

The head remains but instead of it revealing itself as eyes, ears, nose and mouth, it becomes a scrambled puzzle.

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Commentary
10:43 am
Mon March 18, 2013

The Human Factor: A Bad Driver Or Just A Bad Day?

Credit GenBug / flickr Creative Commons

The Fundamental Attribution Error is a concept derived from the field of social psychology. We are all guilty for committing this error.

As an example, try to think of a time that someone cut you off in traffic, or didn’t use their signal, or pulled out in front of you. Or maybe that time the wait staff at your favorite restaurant wasn’t quite nice. You were probably angry, frustrated and would have loved the opportunity to give that driver or waiter a piece of your mind.

Read more
Commentary
12:00 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

The Human Factor: How Three Mile Island Could Have Been Prevented

Three Mile Island stands out as one of the greatest U.S. tragedies, and possibly the first major disaster of the nuclear age.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Three Mile Island stands out as one of the greatest U.S. tragedies, and possibly the first major disaster of the nuclear age. Being one of the first, and one of the most publicized reactor meltdowns in world history, it would be almost a decade before the disaster was overshadowed by that of Chernobyl.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

The Human Factor: How Do You Know How To Hold A Coffee Mug?

The handle on this blue coffee mug is an example of an affordance. Its design makes obvious the purpose or function.
Credit ~dgies / flickr

Human Factors aims to better integrate humans and systems to increase effectiveness and safety, and to reduce errors and accidents.

Sometimes, these systems can be simple, such as a human using a pen; and sometimes they can be much more complex, such as the systems in place to launch shuttles and rockets into orbit. One principle that is often used in our field is called “Affordance.”

Affordances are defined as a quality of an object or environment that makes it obvious what that object or environments purpose or function is.

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Commentary
1:09 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

The Human Factor: Superstition

Pigeons eating a bagel in Times Square.
Credit vpickering / flickr

Superstitious behaviors, or the belief that supernatural forces have a causal effect on events, are prevalent throughout all human cultures.

But humans aren’t the only beings subject to this behavior. In fact, scientific research on superstitious behavior began accidentally with pigeons.

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Commentary
12:30 pm
Mon January 21, 2013

The Human Factor: Eyewitness Testimony

Credit orangeacid / flickr

Eyewitness testimony is often highly regarded by juries and those who write television crime dramas.

Many people believe that their memory is infallible. Whatever they experience is recorded, frame by frame, like a movie, for later retrieval. Depending on one’s own personal history and past experiences, memories can in fact diverge significantly from the actual event.Anxiety, stress, and how questions are worded can conspire to create false memories.

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