The Human Factors program in the psychology department (now Department of Psychological Sciences) began in 1970 when William Howell became chair of the department. Dr. Howell structured the department so that it was divided into three areas: Engineering Psychology (now called Human Factors), Industrial Psychology, and Cognitive Psychology. The key idea was that there is great synergy among these areas such that applied psychology should have a theoretical basis and that basic psychology benefits from applying theory to applied problems. Today, maintaining that synergy is basic to our human factors program.
The original emphasis of the Human Factors area was on decision making but it gradually expanded to include the many areas we have today. However, we still base the program on the principle that students require a solid grounding in basic psychology to fully understand and contribute to applied psychology.