Aviation Psychology

Aviation Psychology


a branch of psychology that investigates the psychological problems of flying. The findings of aviation psychology are used for increasing the efficiency and safety of work in aviation as well as for improving the selection of applicants for specialized occupations in aviation.

Aviation psychology originated at the beginning of this century in connection with the development of aviation medicine and work psychology; the highly specific nature of the mental processes during flying led to the development of aviation psychology as an independent discipline. This specificity lies primarily in the fact that man’s separation from the earth leads to a drastic change in the structure of spatial orientation and to the appearance of considerable mental stress; the distinctive environmental effects—accelerations, drops in barometric pressure, changes in atmospheric composition, and so forth—can have a substantial effect on the central nervous system; the high speeds of flight and the possibility of emergencies require uninterrupted concentration as well as rapid decisions and actions.

The intensive development of aviation psychology in the USSR began in 1921 with the work of S. E. Mints and N. M. Dobrotvorskii and, later, K. K. Platonov. At present, research in aviation psychology develops within the broader framework of engineering psychology.

Since the second half of this century, the main trends in aviation psychology have focused on the study of the effect of flight factors on mental functions and the development of recommendations for the prevention of unfavorable influences; the study of piloting for the purpose of maximum adaptation of technology to human mental capacities; identification of the psychological causes and preconditions of aircraft accidents and the development of measures for their prevention; the study of the mental qualities conducive to the successful performance of flying tasks, for the purposes of screening applicants for professional schools and of determining whether pilots are qualified to fly; and improvement of the training procedures for specialized occupations in aviation on the basis of a study of the psychological principles of training and character development.


Gerathewohl, S. Psikhologiia cheloveka v samolete. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from German.)
Gorbov, F. D., and F. P. Kosmolinskii. “Ot psikhologii aviatsionnoi do psikhologii kosmicheskoi.” Voprosy psikhologii, 1967, no. 6.
Platonov, K. K. Psikhologiia letnogo truda. Moscow, 1960.
Sells, S. B., and C. A. Berry. Human Factors in Jet and Space Travel: A Medical-Psychological Analysis. New York, 1961.


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A sampling of sources: Social Science Quarterly, Military Psychology, International Journal of Selection and Assessment, and The International Journal of Aviation Psychology.
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Aviation psychology - costs and benefits, in Proceedings from the 26th Conference of the European Association for Aviation Psychology, 3-7 October 2004.
1991), "The Effectiveness of Training Programs for Preventing Aircrew Error," Proceedings of the 6th International Symposium of Aviation Psychology, Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State University.
A paper presented at the 11th International Symposium on Aviation Psychology.
Laurence Young, in his chapter on "Spatial Orientation," in the book Principles and Practices of Aviation Psychology observes, "A particularly dangerous period for the pilot occurs when making the transition from instrument flying to flying by external cues.
Bor admits that the book is aimed at cabin and flight crew, ground staff, airline safety experts and students and academics of aviation psychology, hence its big price tag of GBP45.
In the well-established aviation system, the importance of sound human factors practice, based on good aviation psychology research, is obvious from those incidents and accidents resulting from its neglect.
The author's complementary experience allowed a unique approach to the study: accident investigation with the NTSB, cognitive psychology research both in the lab and in the field, enormous first-hand experience of piloting, and application of aviation psychology in both civil and military operations.

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