June 2009 Human-Factors Taxonomy preface

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June 2009

Human-Factors Taxonomy


This guide provides a human-factors taxonomy for the purpose of scientific research and system evaluation. This taxonomy is intended to assist scientists and systems specialists in identifying human factors that affect human performance. The list is derived from aerospace, industry, and military experience and is presented in graphic and tabular forms.

The project to develop a human-factors taxonomy was initiated under the auspices of Life Sciences and Systems Committee on Standards (LS&S/COS) of the American Institute of Aeronautics an Astronautics (AIAA) and was an outgrowth of a Military Operations Research Society (MORS) effort to develop a methodology for identifying human factors in mission analysis and modeling.

This guide was written by members of a MORS working group chaired by Valerie J. Gawron, Ph.D. and expanded by members of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

The authors include:

Valerie J. Gawron, Ph.D.

George H. Anno

Edwin D. Jones

Robin L. Keesee

E.J. Lovesey, Ph.D.

Lana E. McGlynn

Grant McMillan, Ph.D.

Richard E. McNally

David Meister, Ph.D.

Lawrence I. O'Brien, Jr.

David M. Promisel, Ph.D.

Tammy Ramierez

Lt. Col. Bruce Smith

Aric Turner


This taxonomy provides a structure for identifying human factors for the purpose of scientific research and system test and evaluation. The information contained in this document is provided as guidance, not mandated as direction. This taxonomy can be considered during the planning, conduct, and analysis of human factors. The objectives of this taxonomy are to: (1) identify an extensive list of human factors, (2) promote commonality in nomenclature and units of measurement, and (3) enable the development and use of a common human-factors taxonomy for data collection and data processing.

The purpose of this Guide is to aid the reader in identifying human factors. The reader is assumed to have a basic knowledge of experimental design, statistics, and human performance.

This Guide may also be used for task analysis. The purpose of analyzing performance of selected tasks, subtasks, and task elements contained in the task inventory by addressing the lowest taxonomic level specified by the procuring activity is to describe task performance in terms of human performance time and accuracy. The product of the analytic effort is intended for use in support of equipment design, testing and evaluation, training requirements identification, manning and workload assessment, development of training and maintenance manuals, and other documentation and reporting.


Page No.





Background 6

Project Objectives 8

Human-Factors Taxonomy 9


Definitions 75



This taxonomy provides a structure for identifying human factors for the purpose of scientific research and system test and evaluation; and may also be used for task analysis. A set of data relevant to each task should be collected and analyzed. For each of these tasks, the minimum data collected and analyzed should be equipment acted upon, consequence of the action, and feedback information resulting from the action. Analysis results should identify at least the following:

(1) Task performance standards,

(2) An estimate of probability of error as a function of aptitude and training,

(3) An estimate of the time to successful performance as a function of aptitude and training, and

(4) A time-and-error rate associated with each critical task and how it relates to the time-and error rate and performance time for the overall system.

The level of detail in any task analysis report should be no greater than is necessary to meet the requirements of the users of that report. The level of detail shall normally be stated by reference to the level of task taxonomy to be used by the preparer.

The guidelines of this guide are appropriate for a variety of behavioral specialties, technologies, and applications.

The behavioral specialties include: (1) human-factors engineering, in which measurements are made to determine whether the physical configuration of an equipment or system is adequate for human control and operation; (2) training, in which measurements are made to determine the effects of instruction on personnel performance or to determine the instructional variables affecting performance; and (3) test and evaluation, in which measurements are made of personnel performing with equipments and systems to determine the proficiency of personnel and whether their performance is adequate to the requirements.

Two criteria were used to develop the task portion of the taxonomy. It must describe:

(1) The dimensions of the task and its environment and

(2) What the task is, rather than how the operator performs the task (Berry, 1980).

Nine additional criteria (Companion and Corso, 1977, pp. 359-360) were used during the development of the complete taxonomy. It:

(1) Must simplify the description of tasks in the system,

(2) Should be generalizable,

(3) Must be compatible with the terms used by others,

(4) Must be complete and internally consistent,

(5) Must be compatible with the theory or system to which it will be applied,

(6) Should help to predict operator performance,

(7) Must have some utility,

(8) Must be cost effective, and

(9) Must provide a framework around which all relevant data can be integrated.

Finally, three rules were applied in developing the structure of the taxonomy:

(1) No more than nine sublevels were allowed per level except the lowest sublevel that could have more,

(2) The structure should require a minimum of effort to translate into an executable form such as SAINT or a Petrinet, and

(3) The structure should be closely tied to existing documented taxonomies, e.g., military standards and design handbooks.

The taxonomy is presented in text form in the Human-Factors Taxonomy section beginning on page 3. In this section, many of the names are followed by clarifications in parentheses, units of measurement in brackets, or both. Portions of the taxonomy were derived from Christman (1977), Fleishman (1975), Joint Chiefs of Staff Publications 1-02 and 3-0, and TRADOC PAM 11-9.

Items 3.5, mission, through, task element, match the taxonomy developed for analysis of tasks as presented in MIL-STD-46855. To maintain complete consistency with this military standard, item 3.5.1, scenario/conditions, is listed as a subcategory of mission but references item 1, environment.

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