Catalysts for Human Error in Complex System Design:Glitches and Representations in Thought and Action

Audrey Murphy
Audrey M. Murphy is an innovator in the adult learning experience within the context of professional life. She has over 22+ combined years of experience in the aerospace and technology industry at NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In her role as an information systems practitioner at JPL and Caltech, Audrey championed the paradigm shift of t...read more



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Statistics suggests that over 70% of human error is associated with system design failure where catastrophic incidents are reported. A renewed awareness for the complexity of human thought processes could contribute to insights into system design failure specific to human errors. Characterized as underlying structures in the mind, glitches and representations in thought and action are important aspects of human error research because both attributes represent fuzzy and incomplete thought processes. Glitches in thought refer to acceptance of systematic patterns of one’s preferences and beliefs as opposed to consideration of contradicting information. Representations in thought and action refer to external reality that is incomplete and inconsistent in the mind that underpin preferences, actions, and behaviors, which helps to inform and facilitate ways that human beings act on their environment. These intimate relationships and connections of thought processes also involve powerful social forces responsible for the primary reasons of all human action. Grounded in a scholar-practitioner model, emphasis in this presentation is concerned with the recursive nature of interaction and transaction of goals and purpose of human thought and action relative to system design failure. This presentation also integrates research findings and direct quotes from my recently published dissertation, which is a qualitative multiple case study situated at the intersection of cognitive psychology and social systems. In addition, practical examples of why and how human beings are susceptible to errors is discussed. Possible ways to prevent the likelihood of human error with reference to future challenges of growing system complexity are also considered.


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