What is Human Factors/HCI?

Our program is called “Human Factors/Human Computer Interaction.” Although this may sound like two distinct areas, our program provides an integrated unified training. The name reflects the different perspectives and disciplines regarding the nature of the field.

Some researchers consider Human Factors as the broadest category in which HCI is a more specific component. Human Factors is defined as the science concerned with the application of what we know about people, their abilities, characteristics, and limitations to the design of equipment they use, environments in which they function, and jobs they perform. (Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, n.d.). Other names for human factors include ergonomics, applied experimental psychology, human factors engineering, and engineering psychology. The term Human Factors/Ergonomics is used to refer to the field as a whole. From this perspective more specific domains include driving, health care, aviation, and human computer interaction. Human factors draws on many disciplines including psychology; computer science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, and nursing.

Other researchers consider Human Computer Interaction as the broadest category in which Human Factors is a more specific component. Human-computer interaction (HCI) is defined as a multidisciplinary field of study focusing on the design of computer technology and, in particular, the interaction between humans (the users) and computers. While initially HCI focussed on the problem of a single user interacting with a desktop computer, the field since expanded to cover almost all forms of information technology design and the long-term effects that information systems will have on humans. Thus, HCI now draws from many different disciplines, including multiple branches of computer science, multiple branches of psychology, graphic design, anthropology, system engineering, sociology, linguistics and more. From this perspective, almost all technologies are computer-driven including driving, health care, and aviation, and thus all fall under HCI, with more specific areas denoted by whether the focus is on psychological issues, computer science issues, hardware, or design. Thus, HCI now draws from many different disciplines, including multiple branches of computer science, multiple branches of psychology, graphic design, anthropology, system engineering, sociology, linguistics and more.

Regardless of perspective, our program provides integrated and rigorous training in research and application that prepares students for many employment venues including industry, academia, and government.