A history and primer of human performance modeling

  • Byrne M
  • Pew R
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Human performance models are abstractions, usually mathematical or computational, that attempt to explain or predict human behavior in a particular domain or task. This includes a wide range of techniques and approaches, from ideas that are most likely familiar to the majority of human factors professionals (such as signal detection theory) to more novel and complex approaches (such as computational models of dual tasking while driving). This chapter provides a sampling of modeling approaches and domains to which those approaches have been applied; for a more in-depth review, see Pew and Mavor (1998). We also discuss some of the issues faced by modelers as well as describe some of the rich history of the mod-eling endeavor over the past 50 years. Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house. —Henri Poincaré Thi s chapter is intended for human factors researchers and practitioners who are inter-ested in modeling but are not experts in any particular modeling approach or domain. It should also be relevant to those who are already modelers and are interested in a survey of other domains and approaches in which human performance modeling (HPM) meth-ods have been applied. In addition, this chapter will provide some sense of the history of HPM as well. Although the Human Performance Modeling Technical Group has existed within the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society for only a few years, human factors profession-als have been constructing and applying models of human performance for at least as long as the half century that the society has existed. Paul Fitts's first publication of his model of aimed motor movement was in 1954; this was around the time that Hick (1952) and Hyman (1953) first published their models for choice reaction time; the seminal Swets (1964) volume on signal detection theory came not long after those works. These mod-els had not only tremendous impact but also longevity, as all of these formalisms are still in active use today. Not all models and modeling formalisms have been as successful as these have, but it is clear that models of human performance have had a substantial impact on human factors research and practice. 225

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  • Michael D Byrne

  • Richard W Pew

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