human factors

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Human Factors


in technology, the characteristics of a human being or a group of people and of a machine or a technical system that are manifested under specific conditions of interaction in a man-machine system, whose operation is governed by the performance of a specific task. Human factors are related primarily to the aspect of the man-machine interaction that is specified by human activity. The correct combination of human abilities and machine capabilities substantially improves the effectiveness of a man-machine system and leads to the optimum utilization by man of technical means for their intended purpose.

The consideration of human factors is an integral part of the design, development, and use of machines and technical systems and is a necessary condition for raising the productivity of labor and the quality of production. Such consideration is most complete in the designing of the human activity in man-machine systems. The designing of a specific type of activity entails the study of man’s internal means of activity—for example, his experience, knowledge, skills, perceptions, thoughts, and memory—and the coordination of the internal means with such external means as documents, algorithms, tools, and manual controls in accordance with the basic operational task of the system that is devised. The design that is developed is used to formulate the requirements for the system’s machine component, which man uses to carry out the specific type of activity.

A distinction is made between the concepts of human factors and the personal factor. In contrast to human factors, the personal factor, which was introduced in connection with the study of human errors involved in industrial and transportation accidents, includes the individual characteristics of a man irrespective of the characteristics of the technical means with which the man interacts. The concept of human factors is relatively new; it arose in connection with the study and design of man-machine systems as a functional whole (seeSYSTEMS ENGINEERING and SYSTEMS APPROACH).

One of the first attempts in the USSR to shed light on the concept of human factors was undertaken in 1930 by the Soviet scientist N. M. Dobrotvorskii. However, the term “human factors” was later introduced into Russian as a result of the translation and shortening of the expression “human-factors engineering,” which is used in the USA to denote both a branch of knowledge and the process of designing man-machine systems with the goal of ensuring effective, reliable, and safe human activity, whether by one person or by a group of people.

In the USA, the Human Factors Society was founded in 1957, and the journal Human Factors was first published in 1958. In European countries, including the USSR, the term “ergonomics” is used to denote the specific field of knowledge and the area of professional activity that are analogous to what is called human factors in the USA. (SeeENGINEERING PSYCHOLOGY and MAN-MACHINE SYSTEM.)


Dobrotvorskii, N. M. Letnyi trud. Moscow, 1930.
Zinchenko, V. P., V. M. Munipov, and G. D. Smolian. Ergonomicheskie osnovy organizatsii truda. Moscow, 1974.
Metody inzhenerno-psikhologicheskikh issledovanii v aviatsii. Moscow, 1975.
Meister, D. Human Factors: Theory and Practice. New York, 1971.

human factors

The study of psychophysical, psychological, and physiological variables that affect humans' performance in an operational system.
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