Brief introduction to Humanistic Human Factors

This introduction is intended to be a presentation of a new idea or a new point of view of the concept of Human Factors. We want to give an idea of Humanistic Human Factors.
According to the definition formulated by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization): “Human Factors is concerned to optimize the relationship between people and their activities, by the systematic application of human sciences, integrated within the
framework of systems engineering”.
Human Factors is physics (environment, meteorology, climate), is ergonomics (tools, equipment …), is organization (shifts, types of work, procedures, hierarchy, …), is physiology (efforts, movements, human potential and limits, …), is prevention, is medicine (hygiene and prophylaxis, drugs, diseases, …), is welfare (health, physical activity, hygiene life, …).
But Human Factors is also a cognitive activity, emotions, self-image, attitudes,  communication, relations, social relationships, preferences, habits, trends and determines the individual and collective behavior.

In order to understand what we mean by Humanistic Human Factors, we’ll give a brief definition of Humanistic and grasp what is behind this concept. Humanism (1400) is a cultural movement that has as main feature the rediscovery of mankind through the research and literature of Greek and Latin classics.

Rediscovering the value of creative autonomy of mankind, overcoming the traditional concepts of authority, revelation, dogma, asceticism, systematic theology, religious tradition with the priority need of a personal reflection and criticism, essentially breaking the unity of medieval encyclopedic, Humanism begins the process of autonomy of the individual disciplines, allowing humans to learn and master the laws of nature and history.

The rediscovery of the autonomy of nature, with its specific laws, leads to the development of exact sciences and applied. Leonardo da Vinci translates his insights in applied science in optics, mechanics, physics in general; architects and engineers spend the design of individual buildings to entire cities, etc.

Similarly we want prove that there can be a humanistic approach in the study of Human Factors in Aviation, an approach that doesn’t considers man as a machine, but as a man characterized by his own subjectivity.

The application in aviation studies conducted by physicians, physicists, engineers, psychologists, biologists, etc.., within the Human Factors is through legislation. Or it’s best to say that the rules that now are applied in aviation are based on scientific studies that prove their effectiveness and are applied to the role of pilots in order to improve the efficiency of airlines (see the continuous increase in the number of hours a pilot can fly) and ensure flight safety.

It’s already well known that aviation regulations and procedures that pilots are required to follow are essential: we don’t think it’s necessary to describe all the accidents that occurred in the last 30 years of aviation history (see the revolution in flight safety after the Everglades crash of 1972) and that led to the introduction of new regulations that ensured that, situations that lead to errors and plane crashes didn’t occureanymore, but it is important to remember that, unfortunately, these accidents were necessary to understand that there was a need to standardize and introduce regulations that rule modern aviation and ensure the high levels of security that we know today.

In this article, however, we are introducing an idea that is not related to flight safety, but the subjectivity that is implicit in every human.

Work environment is dominated by values ​​such as productivity, efficiency, organization, planning, optimization, which have rationality as a constant referent.
In this sense, even in aviation, the equation is:

Objectivity = Rationality – and therefore Truth


Subjectivity = Emotional – and therefore False

Studies in work psychology have concluded that it is possible to take in account everything that is subjective to each individual and human conduct (Cacciaguerra, 1974), provided they are not to be confused with individuality.

Aware of this, we only want to extend this concept of subjectivity in aviation in particular to the pilots and flight attendants considering not only their “knowledge” or their “know how”, that have already been well developed in their training and regulations, but also their “interpersonal skills”, ie personal, psychological, and socio-cultural traits that enable effective performance and are in line with their values. In this way we can change attitudes and improve operations and relations.

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