thumbnail of Behavioral science research; Man and machines, part 2
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant he made from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters man and machine. The second programme on this subject from the series human behavior social and medical research produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service with special assistance from the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan. These programs have been developed from interviews with men and women who have the too often unglamorous job of basic research. Research in medicine the physical sciences the social sciences and the behavioral sciences. OK Janelle you will hear what may seem like a strange or an unfamiliar saga. These are the sounds of the participants office his laboratory or clinic where the interviews were recorded. The people you will hear today are Harry Helsa a professor of psychology at the
University of California Jack W. Dunlap president of Dunlap associates in Stamford Connecticut and Edward R. Jones an engineering psychologist at McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in St. Louis Missouri. And my name is Glenn Philips major technological developments often have profound sociological effects technological change often means a period of difficult readjustment. Men are forced to learn new skills. Experienced workers find themselves unemployed and management has many new problems. Human Factor engineering is beginning to include considerations of such sociological considerations in its research program as high speed computers for example or some other automatic machine are introduced into stable civilian industries. The companies manufacturing these business machines and the engineers who designed them are being forced to consider the impact of their new
systems on the lives of workers who will operate or use them such sociological aspects of human factor engineering will undoubtedly take on greater importance in the future. Let us for now take just one aspect of this change. Automation feared by many as economically bad for the individual worker. These fears as we will see are without basis. Professor Henderson and Dr Jones expressed these views. First Professor Helston. Well I'm not an economic historian. It is my impression that every improvement in the means of production. Has resulted ultimately in a larger and larger number of people being employed. Why let me cut down the number employed in a given industry at a given time. In the long run I think we can see that invention has always
led to greater and greater employment. I know that workers have often objected even to improvements in industry that were health saving and in some cases life saving for fear that it would cut down on their jobs or earnings. I have bought I think almost everybody has now agreed that. Invention and advances in technology must in the long run accrue to everybody's benefit and including the worker. And Dr. Jones made this comment. I can see great advantages for man with the advent of autumn Matej sion to me this means that man no longer has to do that very repetitive dull tasks that have been demanded of
him in the past. Instead he will function in cases where judgement flexibility. So integrity and many other of the functions we associate with the human can be best utilized. I think that this changing role for man has great things to offer in the future. However people who work and are involved with these future man machine systems will require. Considerably more training than people have at the present. If they are to function successfully since the repetitive routine tasks are done by the machine. I asked Dr. Jones if society could become one of two extremes with
one extreme being highly skilled and the other being unskilled. His answer was I don't think so. One of the striking things that we find is that pushing a button is a lot more difficult than people realize I don't say this in jest because we have done some rather complex analyses on some of the future systems we have. Stated rather simply it's this that the man is faced with a number of sensory inputs telling him that something has occurred wrong in the system or something is going on. It is up to him to make a very complex judgment and assume several courses of action. Pushing the button is the course of action. It's simple to push the button pushing the right button. It's a very difficult problem and in many of the future systems pushing the right buttons again. Have tremendous implications. So
if I think that the. Things that we have seen in the press and other places implying that the push button brings in an era of people sitting around and occasionally using their finger to activate a switch. Or have given a wrong impression here. In many cases. This is a fairly complex task that requires the utmost of human judgment if it were easy it would have been automated in the machine to begin with. Dr. Dunlap supplies the answer to my next question which was with future employment automatic machinery. Would it be conceivable that man might fill the role of an observer so to speak. If this could happen what effect would this have on his morale. This is a very real problem. There are many tasks.
That are. That have been with us in the past and more of them are coming as we develop automatic machinery. For me and do nothing but supervise they're there really as a detector of when trouble occurs and then something must be done in the early warning system such as the DEW line the man sits there hour after hour and day after day and very little of curves. How do you keep up these morale and interest in such a situation. And above all how do you be sure that he's going to be effective when you know what he has to do when something does occur. Very similar situations occur when these large power plants at the control centers in the large chemical plants or let's say a border submarine or a man is working with the sonar. The problem is. How do you keep a man's morale up in these situations. Keeping interested in the job. And finally how do you be sure that
his performance will be sound and reliable when something does happen. This is an area in which there's a. Need for a great deal of work. Now this fellow's. In between the human engineer the industrial engineer and a clinical psychologist. I think as each man thus far has stated one of the main aims of man and machine research are the improved safety factors. Dr. Dunlap cites first an example familiar to everyone when like to show you another area in which human engineering. Could be employed more than it is today. This isn't the problem of building a home in the layouts of the in particular the kitchens. Some of the better architects have huge industrial engineers to study the layouts of kitchens and arrangements of them. And of course they have to fit these into their designs. But I. Feel this is the kind of a
task and which if they used a human engineer who was familiar with. The physical problems spring and so forth and the demands that are placed on the women particularly I'm thinking in the kitchen that there could be rather substantial improvements made. Dr. Jones look to the future with regard to safety factors when asked to describe some of the safety devices under consideration. The investigations the behavioral science field may well point out areas where. Increased safety may result. For example in the case of the automobile we consider this we take a systems approach here and first we consider the vehicle and its characteristics. Secondly the individual in the system and his characteristics. Thirdly the function the characteristics of the road the traffic signs the weather and so forth and lastly these social
forces forces such as education policing and so forth that impinge upon the human in the system. Taking all of these. Rather than trying to blame everything on the human himself. We begin to see places where considerable improvements may be made and in fact our transportation systems of the future can be considerably safer however it should be apparent that modifications in these. Thing factors that I have just mentioned will reach into the deepest aspects of almost all of our lives. It is not a simple change that can be made since the automobile is intimately tied up with most things we do. Any increase in safe use of this will have to permeate all these areas.
My inevitable question to all of these men seems to have been if they could be given the answer to one question what would that one question be. And Dr. Jones summarized the aims that he felt the man machine systems research included. I would like to ask how man can be optimally utilized in the man machine systems that we developed in a future society and by optimally utilized here. Not only do I mean. Can he make his most effective contribution in terms of the performance of the system but does he gain the necessary satisfaction from his functioning in the system and from his role in the system. I might add here that from our experience we think that man's role in future systems is a very important one.
The pull involved high skill levels since the routine jobs can be done rather easily by machine. It will require him making decisions that require him to program these. Machines it will require him to maintain these machines and require him to utilize effectively the products that come from these machines. And excerpt from the original interview between Professor helos and myself concludes today's program I ask him for the one question that he felt needed concerted attention. These were his views how. Best prevent or correct the errors of human beings in man machine systems. This problem is as acute in operation of anti aircraft or anti missile fire controls as in automobile driving or in the manufacture and distribution of drugs during the Second World War. We found in
our study of man machine systems that most of the error in siting on aircraft or in manipulating radar tracking controls came not from this equipment but from the operator. We therefore had to introduce certain changes in design in the equipment to minimize the errors put in by the operator. We found for example that by increasing the diameter of a hand wheel or increasing its inertia we could even out the operator's movements so that his tracking became smoother and more accurate. A far more difficult to deal with however are so-called errors of judgment and effects of boredom or carelessness. Here we deal with higher psychological processes and the problem becomes much more difficult. In fact it is probably in the long run a more difficult problem to
deal with the odd error in humans due to humans so to speak. Then the error in man machine systems due to the machine. Problems of the former type are not solved by changing the design of equipment. We have to deal with these by concentrating on humans. They tremendous full of life and health in ATA modern automobile driving is a case in point. We probably have to concentrate more on the drivers than we do on the machines. The problem always however is a joint problem of the human being and the machine. And of course in the case of automobile driving we would have to include the road and public opinion on a great many other things which complicate the situation tremendously. You mention the automobile driving which of course is something
everybody has contact with whether they drive themselves or they certainly ride in cars these days. Well the future and further advancement there lend more and we hope certainly it will. More safety factors in the daily driving of an automobile. And if so what research is going on in this particular field. I know that there are a number of. Psychologists and other scientists who are giving full time to this problem of increasing the safety of driving. A great deal could be done in learning more and instituting controls over perception. A number of accidents are due to bad lighting improper positioning of signs or improperly graded roads and
so on they whole environment contributes to the way in which an individual drives and certainly the psychologist has a very important role to play here in eliminating sources of error. Illusions of perception and circumstances that lead to bad judgment and so on. Dr Nelson I've been told many times that there is. Lack of research being conducted in the United States and many of the areas not only in behavioral sciences social sciences but also in the physical sciences and medical sciences. But this is not due to the lack of money. If this is the case then what is it. A lack of. I think that there probably is a lock on basic
research in practically all areas. As soon as you start spending money for research you want to see some practical results unless you happen to be a university scientists or someone who has private sources of support. Although some of the foundations are very generous in their support of basic research but in general I think that. There is a tendency on the part of the public and more specifically on the part of the taxpayer to look for practical results. In fact I have heard some very intelligent people who decry the money spent on research into space and say what's the use of putting a man out there and are sending satellites
up there. They don't realize the knowledge gained the the importance all that sort of thing for extending the boundaries of knowledge and any extension of the boundaries of knowledge. Sooner or later does pay off in a practical way. So in general I would say that. We can't have too much good basic research. And the practical and will be best served in the long run if we can have a sufficient core of basic scientific work in all areas. I wonder if it might be because of the materialistic attitude of the American public. I'm not saying this is the case. I have been told this is the case that they don't my seeing the money being spent and such things as missile
development because they can see something. Now whether it goes four feet off the ground and then blows up or whether it goes all the way at least they have been able to see something of a material nature. However they don't like to spend so much money and such things as the social scientist when they can see there's nothing to see. They can't lay their hand on it. Is there validity here. I think you're absolutely right online. It's much more difficult to see something concrete and tangible from research in what we might call the behavioral sciences and lab would include the so-called social sciences. However there are it seems to me several very important aspects to this which the public is apt to overlook. First anything that we learn in a basic way in the theme of human behavior does help to
modify the climate of opinion about human behavior. So that if fun. We can do anything to educate people to base their judgments about human problems human relations of all sorts ranging i love away from interpersonal relations in the family to the relations among nations. We will have done a great deal. And that concerns the general climate of opinion. Secondly the research in the behavioral sciences doesn't lead to the development of methods and techniques for tackling various problems. There are many problems that we can't see because we don't know how to go about it. Now it takes a considerable amount of research often merely to develop a technique for attacking a problem. And that is one
of the results in the behavioral sciences that is not appreciated for quite a while. Until after the technique has produced something tangible. Thirdly behavioral research does yield tangible results. It leads to better selection of workers and industry and what we talked about earlier the improvement of man machine designs. It has certainly been of great importance in the field of education. And it is beginning to affect practically every walk of life where it pays to act on knowledge rather than on intuition. Behavioral Science can furnish knowledge where up until
the time that it is furnished we have to act on by guess and by gosh. It seems to indicate here a problem of public education which suggests to me certainly a job for the communication media radio television newspapers and magazines. Being in the profession that I'm in I am certainly prejudiced in one direction. However I would like your impressions here interpretations as to what the communication media might offer to better educate the public and to tell them what is going on and to try to show what can be done from this field of endeavor and of research in the behavioral sciences. I think the two groups of people need to be educated here. When those who are in control all of and manipulate the media of communication and to the public. It's been my impression that the reason why
the so-called basic or natural sciences get better coverage and are accepted better by the public is because reporters and science writers are now better educated to find out about what's going on and. In atomic physics or in chemistry or in biology and the result is as they write it up or they put it together in a way that makes it intelligible to the public through the written word or through the spoken word ot through television. Now I think there is somewhat of a leg in the social sciences. We have not had the. The glamour of the coverage. One reason is because the people who get the news on this front. Haven't been quite as educated
to dig it out and work it up for public consumption. Now there are some notable exceptions to this. The American Psychological Association. Has given several prizes to science writers of science. Particularly those who have presented psychology for public consumption and a number of people have done excellent work in this respect. If we could double triple and quadruple the number of let us say Marjorie then to Waters who is the last one to receive the reward of the American Psychological Association for excellence and presenting psychological science to the public. Social science would I think rise very much higher in public estimation.
I thought occurs to me that these specialist. Who really know a subject any one of the subjects areas disciplines in the social sciences. Possibly going to be in the profession itself doing some research in it rather than being in the communication media. So what is the answer here what must we do. I think if you look at some of the outstanding natural science reporters like the late Waldemar comfort of the New York Times to take an example you will find that they have had a considerable amount of training at least from the layman's point of view in the areas in which they have done outstanding reporting. I believe that it will probably be necessary for people who covers certain scientific areas including the social
sciences to acquire some background in those fields in order to be able to do the best kind of reporting in those fields. I don't see any substitute for for some knowledge to be able to do this. On the other hand the scientists in the various fields need need some education and learning how to present their material so that it is intelligible to the people who are they all on that consumers. I think that if we are learning about this are the attitude of scientists in this respect has changed over the years. I think today most scientists are willing and glad to have their work properly presented to the public.
And as they become more skilled and communicating there are results to those who present the news to the public that more of it will will get through eventually to the public. My thanks to Professor Harry Helston of the University of California to Dr. Jack W. Dunlap of Stamford Connecticut And to Dr. Edward Jones of St. Louis Missouri. Next week you will hear Dr. Max Milliken of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Jacob Marsh aka Yale University and Professor kind of arrow of Stanford University as they discuss how behavior influences the economy on the next program from the series human behavior social and medical research consultant for this program was Dr. Paul Fitz of the University of Michigan. We extend our special thanks to the Mental Health Research
Behavioral science research
Man and machines, part 2
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-j9609t70).
Episode Description
This program, the second of two parts, talks about the relationship between man and machines. Guest are: Harry Helson, Ph.D.; Jack Dunlap, Stamford, Conn.; and Edward R. Jones, Ph.D., McDonnell Aircraft Corp., St. Louis.
Other Description
A documentary series on behavioral science and its role in understanding human health.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Cowlin, Bert
Interviewee: Helson, Harry, 1898-1977
Interviewee: Dunlap, Jack
Interviewee: Jones, Edward R.
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-36-14 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:38
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Behavioral science research; Man and machines, part 2,” 1961-08-08, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 13, 2022,
MLA: “Behavioral science research; Man and machines, part 2.” 1961-08-08. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 13, 2022. <>.
APA: Behavioral science research; Man and machines, part 2. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from