Industrial/organisational psychology and human factors
Examining the human element of work to create better workplaces
In an increasingly technology-based world, workplaces and the nature of work have changed dramatically. The fields of human factors and industrial/organisational psychology deal with the human element of work, as well as the interactions of humans with the technological and social elements of systems.
This involves improving the organisational and physical structure of the workplace to accommodate the cognitive, physiological and motivational capabilities and limitations of humans.
Our work investigates the performance and wellbeing of workers in various roles by considering both system factors such as work design and management style, and individual factors such as fatigue, problem-solving abilities and situational awareness.
Our research seeks to answer questions such as:
- How do we attract and select job applicants to optimise person-role fit?
- How can we design workplaces and work roles to enable the workforce to perform effectively, efficiently and safely?
- Attention and Human Behaviour Laboratory
Our research is at the interface between key human cognitive abilities, such as attention and multitasking, and human behaviours across a variety of situations.
Over a century of 'basic' experimental research has taught us a lot about human cognition and perception, as well as their underlying neural mechanisms. However, we know much less about how these abilities differ across individuals and groups, or how these abilities influence everyday behaviours, like driving, or performance in specialised jobs, like the military or air-traffic control.
The goal of our work is to answer these questions by breaking through traditional divides between basic and applied research, and to focus on building a reciprocal relationship in which basic research can guide practical questions, and practical outcomes can give new insights into basic processes.
- Individual Differences Laboratory
Research in the Individual Differences Laboratory is devoted primarily to the topics of cognitive abilities, including financial literacy, as well as personality, especially narcissism. Recent work undertaken with honours and postgraduate students has attempted to understand the nature of individual differences in final literacy and face processing abilities. Additionally, work on the self-estimation of abilities and grandiose narcissism has been undertaken.
- Human Factors and Applied Cognition (HUFAC) Laboratory
The Human Factors and Applied Cognition (HUFAC) Laboratory conducts theory-driven research to understand the cognitive mechanisms that underlie human performance in safety-critical work contexts. To achieve this we conduct both basic experimental psychology research and research using simulations of air traffic control, submarine track management, unmanned vehicle control, and driving.
The core aim is to strengthen the link between psychological science and practice by publishing in world-class journals, and transferring knowledge and skills as directly as possible back to industry.
Core questions addressed in the HUFAC Laboratory include:
- How can task automation be designed to maximise operator and system efficiency/safety?
- How do individuals remember to perform delayed intentions when multi-tasking (prospective memory), and how can the negative impact of task interruptions be minimised?
- What are the mechanisms by which individuals develop understanding the current state of their tasks and anticipate the future (situation awareness), and to what extent can this be trained?
The HUFAC Laboratory has received a significant amount of funding from bodies such as:
- Australian Research Council
- Air Services Australia
- Defence Science and Technology Group
- Defence Research and Development (Canada)
- Neurotrauma Research Program
- Department of Airforce (Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development)
- Psychology at Work Lab
Industrial and organisational psychology is a specialist area that applies psychological knowledge and skills to workplaces with the aim of improving organisational effectiveness and the quality of work life.
The Psychology at Work Lab is staffed by Organisational Psychologist practitioners, academics, and postgraduate students (under the supervision of experienced academics and registered psychologists). The lab conducts research, consultancy, industry placement activity and training with a wide range of industry partners, including government, national and multinational corporations, and not-for-profit partner organisations. We collaborate by developing an in-depth understanding of the partner organisation's situation and needs, and applying science-driven approaches, using a multifaceted team of academics, practitioners and students.
We work with individuals, teams and organisations to improve work-related outcomes such as performance, job satisfaction, safety and wellbeing.
Our areas of focus to achieve such improved outcomes include:
Selection and assessment
Personality, attitudes and motivation
Training and development
Job and organisational design
Team composition and processes
Our research methodologies include field- and lab-based studies as well as online studies, where data is collected through surveys, interviews, observations, meta-analyses, large industry databases, or a combination thereof, and analysed based on a thorough understanding of available and applicable statistical methods.Our team can offer customised, up-to-date training in all of the focus areas listed above. If you are interested in partnering with us for research, consulting, placement activity, or training, please do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss opportunities.
- Healthcare Human Factors Laboratory
We conduct human factors research with a focus on healthcare settings. We apply theories and methodologies from human factors psychology to understand how healthcare professionals (e.g. doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, etc.) carry out their jobs in their work environment (e.g. operating theatres, hospital wards, etc.), and identify human-centred solutions to support/enhance their work performance. The aim is to help healthcare professionals perform to their best abilities efficiently and safely.
Our research is relevant to, and draws on knowledge from, applied cognition, perception and attention, and I/O psychology. That’s why you see our Lab spanning across more than one research area in the School. We use methodology ranging from laboratory-based experiments, clinical simulations, to observational studies.
Current interests in the lab:
- Designing tools to help clinicians multitask - Clinicians often have to multitask (e.g. calculating medication dosage for Patient A and paying attention to Patient B’s decreasing heart rate), we are interested in finding out clinicians’ performance bottleneck in such situations and design appropriate technology to help them manage their attention effectively.
- Understanding clinicians’ attention - We are interested in finding out whether clinicians from different specialisation would have different attentional capabilities. If so, what would this tell us about human attention?
- Human factors training in hospitals - Hospitals in WA have started providing human factors training to their staff (including doctors, nurses, allied health, etc.) and we are interested in finding ways to measure the impact of human factors training on work performance. In this line of work, we collaborate with Dr Thy Do, Consultant Anaesthetist, at Royal Perth Hospital and Operational Director of the NEXUS Human Factors Training Program.
- Western Australia Centre for Road Safety Research (WACRSR) Laboratory
The WACRSR has been established to conduct research across the Safe System approach. The cornerstones of the Safe System Approach are — safe roads and roadsides, safe road use, safe speeds, safe vehicles and safe post-crash care.
This approach represents a paradigm shift in road safety and takes a holistic view of the road transport system and the interactions of its various elements to create a road transport system in which human error does not result in death or serious injury.
At WACRSR, our research focuses on road safety including: driver behaviour, vehicle safety, road and other infrastructure safety, speed, general causes of road crashes and trauma, new, emerging and existing safety solutions to prevent and/or reduce road trauma, contributing factors to injury and death in road crashes, injury prevention in road crashes and post-crash.
Clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology
Our clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology researchers are exploring theories and interventions to improve quality of life by understanding the causes and consequences of brain and mental disorders.Read more about Clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology
Biological psychology and cognitive neuroscience
Our research combines the modern tools of neuroscience (brain imaging, brain stimulation, and recording of brain electrical and haemodynamic activity) with subtle psychological tools to analyse behaviour.Read more about Biological psychology and cognitive neuroscience
Industrial/organisational psychology and human factors
Industrial and organisational psychology and human factors at UWA examine the human element of work, aiming to improve safety, wellbeing and performance.Read more about Industrial/organisational psychology and human factors
At UWA, we study the ability to detect, attend to and recognise features in the environment, and seek to understand the underlying processes that serve those abilities.Read more about Perception
Our work looks at how people behave in a range of contexts, from simple decision tasks, to complex cognitive and social environments. We investigate questions via experiments, surveys and simulations, and apply rigorous behavioural analysis and mathematical modelling.Read more about Cognitive science