C46. Rice, R. E. & Stohl, C. (2006).  Communication and human factors. In G. Salvendy (Ed.), Handbook of human factors and ergonomics (3rd ed.) (pp. 150-176). NY: Wiley.


Human factors is the study of the interaction of humans with systems, products, and the environment. Human factors research is traditionally found at the intersection of engineering, computer science, management, and psychology.  In recent years communication scholars have joined in the interdisciplinary study of human factor design particularly in the aviation and knowledge management industries. This relatively new and evolving partnership is not surprising. As a science of human performance concerned with the physical, cognitive, and social abilities and limitations of people and a user-focused engineering discipline concerned with the design of interdependent systems for efficiency, safety, and quality, human factors involves communication within and among participants and technologies as a necessary yet complex condition for effectiveness. Indeed, a Google search in August 2004, using the terms (“communication” or “communications”) and (“human factors”), returned over 400,000 web pages. In general, communication processes are fundamental to what is designed (hardware and software), how it is designed (the relations among designers and stakeholders, typically conceived of as users), how it is used (the optimization of the interaction between the human and the physical component), and how the designed system influences subsequent communication among users of the system.  A communication perspective goes beyond the psychological and physiological, to the social. Making sense of the intentions and suggestions of fellow designers, a system, its features, its uses, and its consequences requires social interaction and a heightened sensitivity to language and the ways in which communicative choices shape the perception and definition of situations.

Click here for PDF copy of publication