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Is situation awareness all in the mind?

Stanton, Neville A., Salmon, Paul M., Walker, Guy H. and Jenkins, Daniel P. (2010) Is situation awareness all in the mind? Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 11, (1), pp. 29-40. (doi:10.1080/14639220903009938).

Record type: Article


This paper addresses the fundamental discipline theoretic question of whether situation awareness is a phenomenon best described by psychology, engineering or systems ergonomics. Each of these disciplines places a different emphasis on the notion of what situation awareness is and how it manifests itself. The approach from psychology places situation awareness as something that can only exist in the minds of people in a system. This means that the unit of analysis is the individual and that team situation awareness is the summation of individual situation awareness. The engineering perspective puts situation awareness in the world, represented in the artefacts and objects that people use. This means that the unit of analysis is the things that people interact with. Finally, the systems ergonomics perspective places emphasis on the interaction between people and their artefacts in the world, to propose that situation awareness functions like distributed cognition. This means that the unit of analysis is the whole socio-technical system. Each of these perspectives is presented and compared with reference to studies in aviation and other domains. It is concluded that the distributed cognition perspective of situation awareness offers the most comprehensive explanation of the phenomena observed in socio-technical systems. Socio-technical systems theory allows exploration of the social and technical sub-systems independently, which offers a theoretical framework for aligning the three views of situation awareness.

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Published date: 2010
Keywords: situation awareness, distributed cognition, schema theory, socio-technical systems


Local EPrints ID: 186475
ISSN: 1464-536X
PURE UUID: cc3407ff-a36b-4e13-a1fc-bf5cc96d04e9

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Date deposited: 13 May 2011 10:50
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 11:47

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Author: Paul M. Salmon
Author: Guy H. Walker
Author: Daniel P. Jenkins

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