February 18, 2020 | Mark Paradies

Automation and Human Error

Automation, Cognitive Function Allocation, and Human Error

In 1985, I completed my master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering with an emphasis on Human Factors. The title of my master’s thesis was A Cognitive Allocation to Improve Nuclear Power Plant Performance.

I was preparing for a talk at the 2020 Global TapRooT® Summit titled Automation and Attention, and I found myself going back to my research from 35 years ago to review some of the findings because it still applied today (maybe even better than it applied 35 years ago).

Automation and Error

Interestingly, automation can help an operator succeed or cause an operator to fail more frequently. Sometimes, automation can lead to a serious accident (for example, the two 737 Max crashes that still have the 737 Max grounded after the MCAS system took control of the plane).

The inability of the pilots to understand what the automation was doing and how they could stop/disconnect the automation (MCAS) led to the death of hundreds.

Importance of Design of Automated Systems

Jens Rasmussen’s Automation Variables Model

Jens Rassmussen’s insights are more important today than they were in the 1980s because automation plays a more critical role in system safety with each new design. We wrote about his insights in this article: Is Automation the Solution to Human Error? Read both the referenced articles to learn more.

Jens Rasmussen
Jens Rasmussen
Accident, Human Performance
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