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PSY3080 Human Factors

Semester 1, 2014 External Toowoomba
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences
School or Department : School of Psychology, Counselling and Community

Contents on this page


Examiner: Tony Machin
Moderator: Andrea Lamont-Mills


Pre-requisite: PSY1010 and PSY1020 and (STA2300 or PSY2100)


Engineers are highly skilled at designing and developing systems to perform functions formerly carried out by humans. There is no doubt that many of these systems are more reliable and more efficient than the systems they replace and that they create new opportunities and new experiences, both for work and leisure. However, catastrophic industrial accidents and the mounting cost of workers' compensation claims are warning signs that technology may be stretching the limits of the human operator. Human factors is a branch of psychology that explores psychological factors that impact on a system's usability. The course is placed at the third year level because it draws upon psychological theories and principles introduced in level 1 and level 2. The aim of the course is to review this earlier work and to introduce new materials that will demonstrate how the study of human factors can contribute to the goals of improving safety, raising productivity, and improving quality of life.


The course begins with an historical overview of the interface between psychology and work and the consequent growth of human factors/engineering psychology. Research methodology plays a big part in human factors, indeed it is a theme that runs through the whole course, so there is some early coverage of statistics and methods. Sections on human sensory systems, cognition, and human physiology emphasise the importance of understanding the limitation of these systems from a human-machine interface perspective. The approach taken involves reviewing a topic (e.g., perception), describing the limitations in human systems for machine and software design, followed by coverage of the design process itself. The final section of the course applies the principles of human factors to fields such as automation, transportation, medicine, and training with a view to explaining much of the problem behaviour we observe in these fields and using human factors principles to bring about improvements.


On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of human factors as a science;
  2. apply design and evaluation methods used in human factors engineering;
  3. describe the implications of limitations in the human sensory and cognitive systems;
  4. apply the principles governing auditory and visual displays;
  5. apply the basic principles of ergonomic workplace design;
  6. recognise poor designs and unsatisfactory work systems;
  7. identify issues related to stress and fatigue in the workplace;
  8. identify issues related to safety and accidents;
  9. trace the various sources of human error;
  10. apply the basic principles of computer-human interface design;
  11. describe the advantages and disadvantages of automation;
  12. apply human factors principles to design better selection and training systems.


Description Weighting(%)
1. Introduction to Human Factors 10.00
2. Human Sensory Systems 8.00
3. Cognition and Decision Making 12.00
4. Displays and Controls 12.00
5. Anthropometry, Biomechanics and Work Physiology 12.00
6. Stress, Fatigue, Safety, and Errors 12.00
7. Human Computer-Interaction 8.00
8. Automation 8.00
9. Human Factors in Transportation and Medicine 8.00
10. Selection and Training Issues and Social Issues 10.00

Text and materials required to be purchased or accessed

ALL textbooks and materials available to be purchased can be sourced from USQ's Online Bookshop (unless otherwise stated). (

Please contact us for alternative purchase options from USQ Bookshop. (

  • Wickens, C.D., Lee, J., Liu, Y. & Gordon-Becker, S.G (2004), An introduction to human factors engineering, 2nd edn, Pearson/Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Reference materials

Reference materials are materials that, if accessed by students, may improve their knowledge and understanding of the material in the course and enrich their learning experience.
  • Chaffin, D. B., Andersson, G. B. J., & Martin, B. J 2006, Occupational biomechanics, 4th edn, Wiley-Intersciences, New York, NY.
  • Ergonomics.
    (The official publication of the Ergonomics Research Society.)
  • Human Factors.
  • Norman, D. A (2002), The design of everyday things, Basic Books, New York, NY.
    (Electronic book available.)
  • Petersen, D (1996), Human error reduction and safety management, 3rd edn, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York.
  • Proctor, R.W. & Van Zandt, T (1994), Human factors in simple and complex systems, Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA.
  • Reason, J 1997, Managing the risks of organizational accidents, Ashgate, Aldershot, UK.
  • Sanders, MS & McCormick, EJ 1993, Human factors in engineering and design, 7th edn, McGraw Hill, New York.
  • Stanton, N., Hedge, A., Brookhuis, K., & Salas, E. (Eds.) 2004, Handbook of human factors and ergonomics methods, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
  • Wickens, CD & Hollands, JG 2000, Engineering psychology and human performance, 3rd edn, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River.
  • Please note that materials will also be posted to the Study Desk.

Student workload requirements

Activity Hours
Directed Study 90.00
Examinations 2.00
Private Study 68.00

Assessment details

Description Marks out of Wtg (%) Due Date Notes
ASSIGNMENT 1 20 20 12 May 2014
ACTIVITIES 40 40 09 Jun 2014
2 HR RESTRICTED EXAM PART A 20 20 End S1 (see note 1)
2 HR RESTRICTED EXAM PART B 20 20 End S1 (see note 2)

  1. Examination dates will be available during the Semester. Please refer to the examination timetable when published.
  2. Examination dates will be available during the Semester. Please refer to the examination timetable when published.

Important assessment information

  1. Attendance requirements:
    There are no attendance requirements for this course. However, it is the students' responsibility to study all material provided to them or required to be accessed by them to maximise their chance of meeting the objectives of the course and to be informed of course-related activities and administration.

  2. Requirements for students to complete each assessment item satisfactorily:
    To complete each of the assessment items satisfactorily, students must obtain at least 50% of the marks available for each assessment item.

  3. Penalties for late submission of required work:
    Students should refer to the Assessment Procedure (point 4.2.4)

  4. Requirements for student to be awarded a passing grade in the course:
    To be assured of receiving a passing grade a student must achieve at least 50% of the total weighted marks available for the course.

  5. Method used to combine assessment results to attain final grade:
    The final grades for students will be assigned on the basis of the weighted aggregate of the marks obtained for each of the summative assessment items in the course.

  6. Examination information:
    In a Restricted Examination, candidates are allowed access to specific materials during the examination. The only materials that candidates may use in the restricted examination for this course are: writing materials (non-electronic and free from material which could give the student an unfair advantage in the examination); calculators which cannot hold textual information (students must indicate on their examination paper the make and model of any calculator(s) they use during the examination; English translation dictionaries (but not technical dictionaries). Students whose first language is not English, may, with the Examiner's approval, take an appropriate non- electronic translation dictionary into the examination. Students who wish to use a translation dictionary MUST request and receive written approval from the Examiner at least one week before the examination date. Translation dictionaries will be subject to perusal and may be removed from the candidate's possession until appropriate disciplinary action is completed if found to contain material that could give the candidate an unfair advantage.

  7. Examination period when Deferred/Supplementary examinations will be held:
    Any Deferred or Supplementary examinations for this course will be held during the examination period at the end of the semester of the next offering of this course.

  8. University Student Policies:
    Students should read the USQ policies: Definitions, Assessment and Student Academic Misconduct to avoid actions which might contravene University policies and practices. These policies can be found at

Assessment notes

  1. Students who do not qualify for a Passing grade may, at the discretion of the Examiner, be awarded a Supplementary Examination and/or assigned additional work to demonstrate to the Examiner that they have achieved the required standard. It is expected that such students will have gained at least 45 % of the total marks available for all summative assessment items and submitted all summative assessment items.

  2. The due date for an assignment is the date by which a student must despatch the assignment to the USQ. The onus is on the student to provide proof of the despatch date, if requested by the Examiner.

  3. Students must retain a copy of each item submitted for assessment. This must be produced within five days if required by the Examiner.

  4. If students submit assignments after the due date without prior approval of the examiner then a penalty of 5% of the total marks available for the assignment will apply for each working day late.

  5. As there are resources cited in the Study Materials which are available on the World Wide Web, and a discussion group that will be used throughout the course, it is essential that students undertaking this course have access to computer and internet facilities which will enable them to participate fully in the course.

  6. Reliable access to the internet is thus a requirement of this course as the course contains electronic assessment and submission elements. In order to avoid internet issues, external students who knowingly do not have reliable access to the internet should actively seek alternative internet access (e.g., Internet cafes, local libraries, or work places) for assessment submission. External students are able to use the on-campus student computer laboratories once access has been enabled. To be granted access, external students need to contact ICT and ask to have a student account enabled so that they can work on-campus. This needs to be requested at least one week before access is required.

  7. APA style is the referencing system required in this course. Students should use APA style in their assignments to format details of the information sources they have cited in their work. The APA style to be used is defined by the USQ Library's referencing guide. //