Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Lebenswissen­schaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Psychologie


The rapid improvements in computer-based control systems make any direct comparison of performance between human operators and machines obsolete.

We focus on a “forgotten” question of function allocation: How well can future events be prospectively handled by developers compared with the operator’s handling of the same events when they really happen? Developers of automation systems are able to program suitable algorithms for predictable problems. Human operators are needed for unpredictable situations. But analyses of accidents reveal that developers of automation are unable to consider all possible combinations of disturbances, while human operators are unable to act as quickly and accurately as needed. This represents a serious problem.


A Socially Augmented Microworld (“SAM”) was developed for the experimental comparison of developers’ anticipation and operators’ actions. Developers and operators have different resources in anticipated vs. real-time process control. We try to measure the influence of some of these resources (like time for development and information about the system’s processes) on the functions in our simulated dynamic and complex system. Hence, the research question is: Which functions should be performed by an operator who can react directly to unpredicted events, and which functions should be executed by automation designed by developers who have to anticipate all kinds of situations.