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ITI Distinguished Lecture: Raja Parasuraman: "Trust and Complacency in Human Interaction with Automated and Networked Systems"

Event Type
Information Trust Institute
2405 Siebel Center
Apr 2, 2009   4:00 pm  
Raja Parasuraman, George Mason University
Originating Calendar
Information Trust Institute (ITI) archival calendar


Automation is a component of many complex systems in which humans work, in diverse military and civilian domains. Automation is increasingly capable, but completely reliable and robust automated systems cannot be assured because of the inability to fully model or predict environmental contingencies. As a result, human trust is a potent factor in the effective use and occasional misuse of automated systems by human operators. Under-trust can lead to disuse or creative disabling of automated devices; conversely, over-trust of imperfect automation can lead to complacency or "blind" following of automated directives. The dynamics of human trust in automated and other intentional agents is now fairly well understood, both at a simple computational level and increasingly at the neural level. In this talk I describe some of the recent developments in research on these topics, focusing on the problem of complacency in automated systems in aviation, air traffic control, and process control. I also discuss some preliminary work on issues of trust and complacency in networked systems involving distributed human and automated agents whose reliability cannot be easily verified. A theoretical approach to complacency and verification behavior can be developed by viewing complacency as a rational attention allocation strategy linked to over-trust in imperfect automation. Finally, I discuss how methods for trust calibration, including adaptive automation, can mitigate some of the problems associated with mismatched trust and complacency in automated and networked systems.

Reception to follow.


Raja Parasuraman, Ph.D. is University Professor of Psychology at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. He is Director of the Graduate Program in Human Factors and Applied Cognition. He is also Chair of the Neuroimaging Core of the Krasnow Institute (NICKI). He received a B.Sc. (1st Class Honors) in Electrical Engineering from Imperial College, University of London, UK (1972) and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Aston University, Birmingham, UK (1976).

Parasuraman has longstanding research programs in two fields: human factors and cognitive neuroscience. The first area is concerned with human performance in human-machine systems, particularly the role of human attention, memory, and vigilance in automated and robotic systems. His second area of research is the cognitive neuroscience of attention, for which he has conducted studies using information-processing paradigms, event-related brain potentials, and functional brain imaging (PET, fMRI), both in normal populations and in relation to aging and Alzheimers disease. He also has a research thrust in the molecular genetics of cognition, specifically in attention and working memory. Finally, Dr. Parasuraman has merged his interests in human factors (ergonomics) and cognitive neuroscience by developing the field of neuroergonomics.

Parasuraman's research in those areas has been supported by several federal agencies, including NIH, NASA, DOD, and DARPA. His books include The Psychology of Vigilance (Academic Press, 1982), Varieties of Attention (Academic Press, 1984), Event-Related Brain Potentials (Oxford University Press, 1990), Automation and Human Performance (Erlbaum, 1996), The Attentive Brain (MIT Press, 1998), and Neuroergonomics: The Brain at Work (Oxford University Press, 2007). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1994), the American Psychological Society (1991), the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (1994), and the International Ergonomics Association (2006).

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