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Modeling Human–System Interaction by Thomas B. Sheridan

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INTRODUCTION

This is a book about models, scientific models, of the interaction of individual people with technical environments, which has come to be called human–system interaction or cognitive engineering. The latter term emphasizes the role of the human intelligence in perceiving, analyzing, deciding, and acting rather than the biomechanical or energetic interactions with the physical environment.

Alphonse Chapanis (1917–2002) is widely considered to be one of the founders of the field of human factors, cognitive engineering, or whatever term one wishes to use. He coauthored one of the (if not THE) first textbooks in the field (Chapanis et al., 1949). I had the pleasure of working with him on the original National Research Council Committee in our field (nowadays called Board on Human Systems Integration, originally chaired by Richard Pew). I recall that Chapanis, while a psychologist by training, repeatedly emphasized the point that our field is ultimately applied to designing technology to serve human needs; in other words it is about engineering. Models are inherent to doing engineering.

More generally, models are the summaries of ideas we hang on to in order to think, communicate to others, and refine in order to make progress in the world. They are cognitive handles. Models come in two varieties: (1) those couched in language we call connotative (metaphor, myth other linguistic forms intended to motivate a person to make his or her own interpretation of meaning ...

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