Human factors is an area of psychology that focuses on a range of different topics, including ergonomics, workplace safety, human error, product design, human capability, and human-computer interaction. In fact, the terms human factors and ergonomics are often used synonymously, with human factors being commonly used in the United States and ergonomics in Europe.
Human factors works to apply principles of psychology to designing products and creating work environments that boost productivity while minimizing safety issues. The field of human factors formally began during World War II, when a range of experts worked together to improve the safety of airplanes. Since that time, human factors psychology has continued to grow and today plays an important role in many other fields, including computing, manufacturing, product design, engineering, military, and government industries.
What Makes Human Factors Psychology Different?
Human factors psychology is generally very applied, with most employed in this area working directly in the field. Psychologists working in human factors spend much of their time performing research and applying what they know about human behavior, perception, and cognition to create more usable products and work environments.
Who Should Study Human Factors Psychology?
There are many great reasons to study human factors psychology. Human factors psychology is a multidisciplinary field that often works with people in other areas, including engineering, medicine, and computer science. Consider some of the following advantages of working in this field before you decide if it is right for you:
Human factors psychologists help others by:
- Developing products that maximize usability
- Working to improve worker safety and efficiency
Human factors psychologists express creativity by:
- Exploring the ways that people interact with products and environments
- Designing interfaces that are easy to understand
- Assessing stylistic changes that can improve product usefulness and performance
Specializations within Human Factors Psychology
- Human-computer interaction
- Cognitive ergonomics
- User experience engineering
- Product design
- Error prevention
Important Topics in Human Factors Psychology
- Educational technology
- Graphic design
- Instructional message design
- Human capabilities and limitations in specific work areas
- The use of virtual reality in employee training