Interdisciplinary research will reduce human error for safer air travel

Monday, September 27, 2021

Most aviation accidents are caused by human error. Human factors, such as eyesight, fatigue, decision-making, all pose challenges to air travel safety.

Leveraging institutional strength in psychology, kinesiology and vision science, research members of the University’s new Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics (WISA) are working to offer evidence-based solutions to reduce pilot error. By building this comprehensive foundation of interdisciplinary research expertise, pilot training will be strengthened, and air travel will be safer for all passengers.

Psychology professor Evan Risko’s research is focused on making pilot training more effective by applying methods and insights from cognitive science. 

“Cognitive science paints a picture of the human as a deeply impressive thinking machine that is nevertheless subject to fundamental and intransigent limitations,” says Risko, a Canada Research Chair in Embodied and Embedded Cognition in the Department of Psychology. "These limitations include the amount of information we can hold active in working memory and biases in judgement and decision making." 

Wherever humans are involved, their limitations have the potential to compromise piloting performance, says Risko. “But we can leverage science and technology to reduce human error, as well as reduce the impact of errors when they do occur. And effective training based on how humans learn represents one of our best tools to reduce human error.” 

Read the full story on WISA research members from the faculties of Arts, Health, and Science.