Translating concepts of complexity to the field of ergonomics

Guy H. Walker, Neville A. Stanton, Paul M. Salmon, Daniel P. Jenkins, Laura Rafferty

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    63 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Since 1958 more than 80 journal papers from the mainstream ergonomics literature have used either the words 'complex' or 'complexity' in their titles. Of those, more than 90% have been published in only the past 20 years. This observation communicates something interesting about the way in which contemporary ergonomics problems are being understood. The study of complexity itself derives from non-linear mathematics but many of its core concepts have found analogies in numerous non-mathematical domains. Set against this cross-disciplinary background, the current paper aims to provide a similar initial mapping to the field of ergonomics. In it, the ergonomics problem space, complexity metrics and powerful concepts such as emergence raise complexity to thestatus of an important contingency factor in achieving a match between ergonomics problems and ergonomics methods. The concept of relative predictive efficiency is used to illustrate how this match could be achieved in practice. What is clear overall is that a major source of, and solution to, complexity are the humans in systems. Understanding complexity on its own terms offers the potential to leverage disproportionate effects from ergonomics interventions and to tighten up the often loose usage of the term in the titles of ergonomics papers. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1175-1186
    Number of pages12
    JournalErgonomics
    Volume53
    Issue number10
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

    Keywords

    • Complex systems research
    • Complexity theory
    • Ergonomics methods

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    Cite this

    Walker, G. H., Stanton, N. A., Salmon, P. M., Jenkins, D. P., & Rafferty, L. (2010). Translating concepts of complexity to the field of ergonomics. Ergonomics, 53(10), 1175-1186. https://doi.org/10.1080/00140139.2010.513453