Variability in Human Performance  book cover
1st Edition

Variability in Human Performance

ISBN 9781138076020
Published March 29, 2017 by CRC Press
389 Pages 61 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Understanding the conditions under which variability in performance may arise, and the processes related to its emergence, gives us insight into the development of techniques for improving the quality of performance. Variability in Human Performance details the scientific and the practical implications of human performance variability by providing a broad perspective on how and why such variability occurs across a number of disciplinary domains. The text takes an approach that rests upon the idea of context, or design, specificity in performance, namely that variability in performance is closely referenced to design factors in the environment in which performance is occurring.

An exploration of the link between variability and related processes, the book introduces a comprehensive framework for understanding human performance variability, presented in terms of how human control of behavior is closely tied to design factors in the performance environment. The authors introduce empirical evidence, as well as practical examples and application areas, in support of this framework. The book begins with coverage of neurobiological and biomechanical basis of movement variability, then examines rich and extensive empirical evidence available for context specificity in cognitive performance and learning, as a basis for cognitive performance variability. The book then reviews the evidence for context specificity in:

  • Student learning
  • Displaced feedback conditions
  • Human error behavior
  • Affective performance
  • Social and team performance

The authors also explore work performance as influenced by complex sociotechnical systems and as a basis for performance variability, applying control systems concepts to an interpretation of the nature and basis of performance variability in all of these domains. They conclude by taking an evolutionary perspective on the origins and behavioral significance of human performance variability. The book then provides strategies on how individuals, groups, and organizations can significantly reduce variability in human performance that often leads to systems failures.

Table of Contents

Purpose and Scope
Key Principles of HF/E Science

Key Issues Bearing on the Properties and Purpose of Performance Variability
Individual Differences
Performance Prediction
A Control Systems Perspective on Performance Variability
Historical Perspective
Control Systems Concepts
Behavioral Cybernetics of Adaptive Systems Behavior
Behavioral Cybernetics of Cognition

Variability in Human Motor and Sport Performance

The Role of Variability in Behavioral Control
Methods for Analyzing Performance Variability
Linear Methods
Nonlinear Methods
Time Series Analysis
Fourier Transform Analysis.
Theoretical Perspectives on Variability and Sport Skill Learning
Schema Theory
Dynamical Systems Theory
Variability in Learning and Performing Skills
Variability between Expert and Novice Performers
Variability in Rehabilitation Settings

Variability in Cognitive and Psychomotor Performance
Historical Perspective
Variability in Cognitive Performance
Early Transfer of Training Example
Differential Learning Research: Early Studies
Differential Learning Research: Analytical Innovations
Critical Analyses of Ackerman

Variability in Psychomotor Performance
Transfer of Training among Different Balance Tests
Fitts’ Law: Context Specificity in Movement Time Performance.
Hick-Hyman Law: Context Specificity in Choice Reaction Time Performance.
The Law of Practice: Context Specificity in Learning.
Qualitative Observations about Task Performance Variability
Situation Awareness.
Context Specific Observations of Gladwell

Educational Ergonomics: Context Specificity in Student Learning

The Nature of Student Learning from the Perspective of Educational Psychology
The Nature of Student Learning from the Perspective of HF/E
Origins and Scope of Learning Ergonomics
The Influence of HF/E Design Factors on Student Performance and Learning.
Impact of Classroom and School Building Design Factors on Student Performance and Learning.
Impact of Educational System Design Factors on Student Performance and Learning
Impact of Learning Strategy Design Factors on Student Performance and Learning.
Impact of Student Character and Emotional Status on Student Performance and Learning.
Impact of Student Health on Student Performance and Learning
Impact of Community System Design Factors on Student Performance and Learning
Influence of Nondesign-Related Factors on Student Learning
Analysis Offers Nothing New
Some Design Factors Not Considered

Variability in Human Performance Under Displaced Sensory Feedback

Historical Perspective
Early History of Spatially Displaced Visual Feedback Research
Early History of Delayed Feedback Research
Behavioral Control Systems Analysis of Displaced Visual Feedback Effects
Examples of Spatially Displaced Visual Feedback
Example of Delayed Visual Feedback
Compilation of Performance Effects of Spatially Displaced and Delayed Sensory Feedback
Displaced Sensory Feedback Effects on Teleoperation
Human Factors Issues with Workstation Telepresence
Performance Variability during Teleoperation

Human Error and Performance Variability

Historical Perspective
Context Specificity in Human Error
Management Responsibility for Human Error
Human Error as an Inherent Attribute of Human Performance Variability
A Control Systems Perspective on Error Performance
There are Evident Limitations to the Term "Human Error" as a Meaningful Scientific and Operational Concept
Principles of Hazard Management
Definitions, Scope, and Historical Perspective
Rationale and Background
Behavioral Cybernetic Model of Hazard Management
Key Principles of Hazard Management

Variability in Affective Performance

Historical Perspective
Personality and Performance Variability
Emotion and Performance Variability

Social Cybernetics of Team Performance Variability

Cybernetic Fundamentals of Feedback and Feedforward Control
Longstanding Scientific Reservations about Cybernetic Psychology
Social Cybernetics and Teamwork
Modes of Social Tracking
Feedback Perturbation of Social Tracking
Social Cybernetic Studies of Social Interaction and Teamwork Through .
Design Factors and Variability in Social Tracking.
Sensory Feedback Modality and Social Tracking Skill
Learning of Social Tracking Skills
Physiological Feedback Effects in Social Tracking
Effects of Sensory Feedback Perturbations on Social Tracking
Social Tracking in Group Interaction
Social Cybernetic Basis of Cognitive Behavior and Communication
Social Cybernetic Research Since
Feedback Control Compliance During Parallel-Linked Social Tracking
Delayed Feedback in Serial-Linked and Mutual Social Tracking
Augmented Team Cognition.
Social Cybernetics in Participatory Ergonomics Programs.
Design Imperatives for Homeokinesis at the Team Level
Assessment of Homeokinesis at the Team Level.

Variability in Human Work Performance: Interaction with Complex Sociotechnical Systems
Historical Perspective
The Nature and Significance of Work
Introduction: Human Control of the Behavioral Environment through Work
Theories of Work
General Laws and Customs of Work
The Future of Work
Work Performance Variability and Interaction with Complex Sociotechnical Systems.
Work Performance Variability and the Design and Management of Organizational Systems
Macroergonomic Perspectives on Organizational Performance Variability
Synergism of Ergonomics with Safety, Quality, and Productivity of Organizational and Work Performance
Operational Synergism between Safety and Quality
A Control Systems Perspective on Organizational Design and Management: Role of Ergonomics.
Work Performance Variability and Performance Variability of Economies and Nation States
A Control Systems Perspective on Variability in Economic Performance
Work Performance Variability and Variability in Economic Performance
Work Performance Variability and Variability in Nation-State Performance
A Control Systems Perspective on Variability in Nation-State Performance

Variability in Fracture- Critical Systems
Fracture-Critical System Failures
Why Fracture-Critical Failures Happen
Jeopardizing the Future.
The Futility of Massive Scale
The Perversity of Unintended Consequences.
Creating a More Resilient Future for Ourselves

Human Performance Variability: An Evolutionary Perspective
Mechanisms of Evolution
Nature Versus Nurture
Heritability of Intelligence.
Implications for Context Specificity
Phylogenetic Origins of Human Performance Variability
Human Self-Selection through Work.
Landmarks in the Evolution of Human Work

Summary and Conclusions

Conclusions: The Purpose of Human Performance Variability

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Thomas J. Smith has research and teaching experience and funding support encompassing many areas of human factors/ergonomics, including human performance variability, educational ergonomics, human error and hazard management, occupational ergonomics, occupational health and safety, surface transportation, occupancy quality, patient safety, work physiology, kinesiology, and ergonomics certification systems. He is a research associate with the School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota. He is a Certified Human Factors Professional with over 100 publications.
His honors include serving as senior editor for a recent special issue of Ergonomics in Design dealing with the topic of globalization of ergonomics, serving as chair of the Professional Standards and Education Standing Committee for the International Ergonomics Association (IEA), originator and committee member for the IEA K.U. Smith Student Award, editorial board member for the journal Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, director and past president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) Upper Midwest Chapter, general chair for the 2001 HFES Annual Meeting, member of the 2002 State of Minnesota Ergonomics Task Force, and member of the Dakota County (Minnesota) University of Minnesota Extension Committee.

Robert A. Henning is an associate professor of industrial/organizational psychology at the University of Connecticut. He holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in psychology (BS), biomedical engineering (MS), and industrial engineering (PhD). He also received three years of postdoctoral training at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in a fellowship program administered by the National Research Council. He is a board-certified professional ergonomist. Since 2006, he has been an active researcher in the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace where he conducts research on programs that integrate workplace health protection and promotion through the participatory design of workplace interventions by front-line employees. Other research areas include social psychophysiology of teamwork, work and rest patterns in computer-mediated work, augmented team cognition, and behavioral toxicology.
Dr. Henning has served as a NORA panel reviewer for work-related musculoskeletal disorders, as a human factors reviewer on the Soldier Systems Panel of the National Research Council/NAS, as panel reviewer for the Information Technology Research Program, Collaborative Systems, Division of Information and Intelligent Systems, Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering of the National Science Foundation, and on the NIOSH Peer Review Panel for the National Center for Construction Safety and Health Research and Translation. He also served as the secretary/treasurer and president of Psychophysiology in Ergonomics (PIE), a technical group of the International Ergonomics Association, and as a founding member on the Executive Committee of the Society for Occupational Health Psychology. He has codirected a NIOSH-supported graduate training program in occupational health psychology since 2005.

Michael Wade is professor of kinesiology and a faculty member in the University of Minnesota Center for Cognitive Science He is an internationally recognized scholar who has published extensively in two areas of movement science: developmental change across the lifespan, with an emphasis on individuals with motor difficulties, and a second focus on the effects of aging on motor skill performance. Dr. Wade holds Fellow status in the National Academy of Kinesiology, the American Academy of Mental Retardation, and the Research Consortium of the American Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. He is a past president of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, and holds the Distinguished Scholar Award from NASPSPA.

Thomas Fisher is a professor in the School of Architecture and dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, having previously served as the editorial director of Progressive Architecture magazine. With degrees in architecture from Cornell and intellectual history from Case Western Reserve, Dr. Fisher was recognized in 2005 as the fifth most published architecture writer in the United States, with 7 books, 47 book chapters or introductions, and over 325 articles.


"Throughout, the book focuses on the sources of variability in human performance, including the design of work systems. The book will therefore be of interest to a wide range of HFE specialists."
—RS Bridger, Institute of Naval Medicine

"This is a truly excellent book that increases awareness of the study of variability in movement performance. … Importantly, this book provides exciting discussions on theoretical problems on movement variability such as what are the sources of this variability."
—DR. Nick Stergiou, University of Nebraska Omaha and University of Nebraska Medical Center