Engineering Psychology: Definition and Meaning

The interaction between engineering psychology and technology has a significant impact on the life cycle and priorities of this study as well as its satisfaction and priorities. Both engineering and psychology have many different subfields that are constantly evolving. Engineering psychology, commonly referred to as human factors engineering is an applied discipline that examines how human behavior might affect the development and use of technological systems. By primarily reconfiguring their interactions, this multidisciplinary field seeks to enhance the relationship between people and technology.

What is Engineering Psychology?

The goal of engineering psychology is to make socio-technical systems better. Examples of such systems include regulating air traffic, operating on patients, operating on nuclear power plants, and operating autos. This is achieved by taking into account how human operators behave in various circumstances while interacting with various technology, surroundings, and other operators.

Engineering psychology aids in the knowledge of human potential and limits and influences the design of technology used by operators directly or indirectly. Engineering psychology is related to human factors, ergonomics, applied experimental psychology, and cognitive engineering. For further information, see Human Factors Research in this volume. Although they all aim to improve socio-technical systems, they each go about it in a unique way, focusing more on the operator's cognitive rather than physical characteristics, for instance. The distinctions between disciplines, however, are frequently slight, and experts from different fields frequently carry out tasks that are quite similar. The scientific aspect of what many engineering psychologists perform is characterized by general principles being derived from the study of individual systems, in addition to the objective of improving the particular system.


Experimental psychology served as the foundation for engineering psychology. During World War I, engineering psychology first emerged (1914). This topic was established during this time because many of America's weapons were ineffective, from bombs that didn't land where they were supposed to weaponry that attacked common marine life. A human mistake was found to be the cause of the issue. The use of psychoacoustics by S.S. Stevens and L.L. Beranek, two of the first American psychologists enlisted to assist in changing how humans and technology interacted, was one of the earliest designs developed to control human mistakes.

Their first task was to attempt to lower the noise levels in military aircraft. The effort, which aimed to make military communication systems easier to understand, appears to have been quite effective. However, engineering psychology studies did not start to dramatically grow until August 1945. This happened as a result of the study that started in 1940 starting to become evident.

Lillian Gilbreth blended her skills as a psychologist, engineer, and mother of twelve children. She was effective in putting time and motion studies and scientific management into practice because to her understanding of human variables. She later became a pioneer in kitchen ergonomics, creating the pedal bin, for instance.

The two world wars led to extensive formal research on human variables that influenced the effectiveness of weapons production and combat in Britain. The Health of Munitions Workers Committee was established during World War I in 1915. This provided suggestions based on research on the impacts of overwork on productivity, leading to rules that included taking breaks and setting limits on work hours, as well as avoiding work on Sundays. To advance this research, the Industrial Fatigue Research Board was established in 1918. The Unit for Research in Applied Psychology was founded in 1944 as a consequence of work on equipment operation begun in 1939 by Cambridge University scholars Frederic Bartlett and Kenneth Craik.

Scope of Engineering Psychology

Engineering psychology, also known as ergonomics in the UK and Europe, human factor engineering, psychotechnology, and applied experimental psychology in the US, study how humans interact with technology and machinery. They base the design of the systems, tools, and products we use every day on psychological science. They frequently emphasize efficiency and security.

Engineers and specialists in human factors work to make interactions between humans and machines simpler, more pleasant, less irritating, and safer.

A subset of applied psychology is engineering psychology. Engineering psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the development and application of knowledge about human behavior to the design of tools, technologies, and tasks, in order to best, accommodate the capabilities and limitations of their human users.

Industrial psychology includes engineering psychology. It also covers themes like labor relations, morale and human relations, organizational management, and consumer behavior. Additional topics covered include personnel recruitment, selection, training, classification, and promotion.

Human sciences like anatomy, anthropometry, applied physiology, environmental medicine, and toxicology are all included in the topic of human factors engineering. Engineering psychology, industrial psychology, and human factors engineering are differentiated in this way; however, these divisions are more theoretical than practical. The engineering psychologist must have sufficient knowledge of all of these fields to apply them in his practical work and come to wise and well-informed design conclusions.

Why Work as an Engineering Psychologist?

Engineering psychologists apply psychological concepts to address practical issues.

People who work in this field contribute to bettering, and occasionally even saving, human lives. Engineering psychologists may improve the safety of systems, work environments, and products by reducing the likelihood of accidents and mistakes.

These experts can choose to specialize in a variety of fields, including −


Engineering psychology commonly referred to as human factors engineering, is the study of how people behave and function as it relates to the development and use of technological systems. It tries to enhance the interactions between humans and machines by rethinking the tools, interactions, or environments in which they occur. Ergonomics is an interdisciplinary branch of applied psychology. The job of an engineering psychologist is sometimes referred to as "user-friendly" relationship improvement.

Updated on: 27-Apr-2023


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