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Research on Pilot Use of Automation

Kathleen Mosier
San Francisco, CA

This year, we are continuing our NASA-sponsored work on pilot use of automation. With Beth Lyall at Research Integrations, Inc., we are following up on previous work addressing automation bias and situation assessment issues, and exploring the issues of risk perception (event criticality), information source, and a preference for action in decision making.

Prior research has established that a tendency toward automation bias exists among pilots as well as in the student population, and that this tendency can result in omission or commission errors.

Other findings have suggested that individuals tend to be proactive, and to choose action over inaction whether the suggestion comes from an automated or other source-unless the action involves high personal risk.

The research on the interaction between risk, information source (automated vs. nonautomated source), and proactivity (action vs. inaction) has previously been conducted using student participants and a combination of aviation and other scenarios. The interaction among these factors has not yet been explored with professional pilots in scenarios that reflect real situations and potential events.

Building on the previous work, these issues are being investigated via a paper-and-pencil study utilizing regional pilots as participants. Scenarios have been constructed (using events from previous studies and from incident and accident reports) that are directly relevant to flight operations, and that vary as a function of risk or event criticality, action vs. inaction suggested or indicated, and source of the information or suggestion (automated vs. traditional or nonautomated vs. human).

The results of this study will pinpoint circumstances or factors that are likely to result in inappropriate reliance on automated cues, or inappropriate action, and will provide a valuable resource for scenario and training development purposes.

Contact Kathleen Mosier

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