College of Arts & Sciences Human Factors


Heimstra Human Factors Laboratory

The Heimstra Human Factors Laboratory is located in the Old Dakota Union building on USD's campus. Its labs include:

  • Human Electrophysiology Laboratory
  • Visual Performance Laboratory
  • Driving Simulation Laboratory
  • HCI/Cognitive Ergonomics Laboratory
  • PsychoAcoustics Laboratory
  • Graduate Student Office Complex

Since authorization of the Ph.D. degree, staffing in Human Factors has increased significantly and the research capabilities of the laboratory have expanded to include a number of major areas of human factors research. Please feel free to contact any of our professors if you have questions regarding our program or the research they are currently investigating.

Aging and Technology

Older adults are a rapidly growing segment of all industrialized populations. Age-related changes in physiological and psychological capacities alter the design equations which dictate system optimization. Research in the Heimstra Human Factors Laboratory is examining these changes and exploring the application of technology toward the advancement of the mobility, safety and productivity of older persons. Recent research efforts have focused upon highway engineering interventions designed to meet the emerging needs of older drivers.

Applied Cognitive Psychology

Basic coursework in cognitive psychology is required of all human factors graduate students. Human Factors faculty and students have been involved in a broad range of studies involving application of cognitive theory and methods to human factors research. Recent research focus include cognitive issues in visual display design, complex monitoring tasks, numerical data entry, interview and survey administration, consumer product labeling, mental workload exerted while driving, and geographical knowledge representation and retrieval.

Aviation Psychology

Application of human factors principles to the flight environment. Factors which affect pilot performance including aptitudes, perceptual limitations, fatigue, pilot error in terms of its measurement, classification, and control. Human dynamics of the cockpit are being investigated, including flight crew communication, leadership motivation, and use of automated speech recognition/synthesis. Design of the cockpit from a human factors point of view including displays and controls. Pilot training will be considered, with an emphasis on methods and techniques for developing design criteria for flight simulators. Factors covering mental models in aviation performance of complex or cooperative shared-knowledge tasks.

Decision Making and Electrophysiology Lab

Human decision making in different social and cultural contexts Risk perception Probability judgment and moral reasoning Evolutionary, ecological, and social rationality of decision making under risk Computer modeling of cue use in risky choices Brain-wave (ERP) signatures of the value function in decision making Hemispheric mechanisms in risky choices

Human Information Processing Research/Human Computer Interaction

Human information processing is a major focus of current research efforts in the laboratory. Recent studies have been conducted to develop and validate measures of operator performance in complex decision making tasks, to assess operator accommodation to high levels of mental workload and to evaluate a variety of cognitive models of human information-processing/decision-making performance. Human-computer interaction is viewed as an important class of human factors research. The way in which computers display information and interact with users is critical to the effective use of computers. Research in the Human Factors Laboratory is addressing many issues involved in human computer interaction. Recent research as examined the format of real-time data displays, differences between pointing devices and graphical information displays.

Motor Performance Research

A current focus of research at the Heimstra Human Factors Laboratory includes the analysis of motor output spectra in a variety of tracking tasks, and performance of gloved operators on standard control manipulations involving toggle switches, push buttons, joysticks and touch screens. Research also addresses the problem of workload quantification in a variety of applied settings, and the degradation of performance capability under conditions of fatigue, danger and other environmental and psychological stressors.

Psychology of Safety

Industrial accidents can be studied by collecting and analyzing unique case histories, or by calculating casualty rates per individual, per exposure, and per unit of output. The Heimstra Human Factors Laboratory is presently using the casualty rate approach to evaluate agricultural accidents on farms in terms of the man-hours of contact with particular machines and procedures. The unique case-history approach is used for evaluating motor vehicle accidents in the vicinity of highway work zones. Safety theory includes human operator failure predictions, safety intervention strategies, and studies of both cost-benefit tradeoffs and benefit-benefit tradeoffs.

Traffic Safety/Transportation Systems Research

Human factors research has focused on the characteristics and skills of the individual operator, as well as on assessments of the effectiveness of major traffic safety countermeasure systems on local, state and national levels. Recent studies of driver behavior have focused on the effects of aging on glare recovery and other visual aspects of the driving task.

Vision and Visibility

Predicting and optimizing the visibility of everyday objects is driven by both theoretical and empirical concerns. Vision research in the Heimstra Human Factors Laboratory has been involved recently with the use of computer vision models to account for differences in the "effectiveness" of highway traffic signs and toward the development of techniques for optimizing their visibility.