We've currently got the tag which has been used with varying degrees of appropriety. I do think Human Factors and or Ergonomics are on topic here, but due to the scope I'm not sure "Human Factors" makes much sense as a tag.

Some suggested alternates were , (technically ergonomics can cover cognitive issues as well) and . While the tag would effectively be most helpful for us over at the User Experience site, I feel UX is a bit too broad and would be out of place as a tag here. But if we pick another tag it could be aliased into the master tag for easier searching.

I'd also personally consider these distinct from Human Computer Interaction, though very related and occasionally overlapping, Human Factors isn't necessarily computer interaction.

4 Answers 4


I agree that ergonomics and human factors are on topic for this site. And I think they represent important fields that deserve a tag.

Here's a definition of the fields:

“Ergonomics and human factors use knowledge of human abilities and limitations to the design of systems, organizations, jobs, machines, tools, and consumer products, for safe, efficient, and comfortable human use”

– Helander, 1997, p.4 adaptation of Chapanis, 1995.

My understanding is that human factors and ergonomics have different emphases but that not much would be lost if we treated them as synonyms. I agree that human computer interaction is in some respects a sub-field of human factors / ergonomics.

If the tag is causing problems, then perhaps would be more unique. Alternatively, we could just retag questions that have incorrectly been tagged.

  • I'm not as concerned with the current tags as having a solid clear tag with a good tag wiki so we can categorize future questions better.
    – Zelda
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 0:53
  • sounds good; perhaps the definition above would provide a starting point for a tag wiki Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 1:42
  • Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) isn't a sub-field of Human Factors (HF). ACM defines HCI as "a discipline concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them". Although HCI has its roots most notably in Human Factors, it sometimes deviates a lot from those roots. HCI research often also follows less theoretical frameworks than HF. Bottomline, I feel HCI is more at home over at UX.SE. See this topic.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 14:45
  • @BenBrocka I have a problem with the human-factors tag, and a tag wiki won't solve it because the people that need to read the wiki, don't (as we have seen many times with other tags). For people outside of HCI, human-factors means something completely different (usually correlated with emotion, and the human experience) and thus by its name the tag is likely to be misused. I would strongly prefer another name for it if that is agreeable. Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 17:09
  • Perhaps that leaves us with "ergonomics" Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 2:38

I'm not even sure what is supposed to be for. The term completely confuses me. When I hear it, I think human factors as in, "Global warming is considered by most to be largely the result of human factors." In that usage it might apply to our site in the context of an experiment, as in "How can I test x without human factos interfering with my experiment?"

You made the point that is supposed to be used for "ergonomics" and the Wikipedia article you linked to says

The two terms "human factors" and "ergonomics" are essentially synonymous

Based on that, I say we use . Yet that tag doesn't even apply to either of the two questions we have right now.

I vote we just burninate the tag.

Edit: What confuses me most is this section of the Wikipedia article showing a picture of what i think of when I hear ergonomics. But Ben commented below

Ergonomics if anything is more confusing as it's generally used to mean making physical things comfortable

Which confuses me because I thought that was what we were talking about with usability of things.

So I still vote we get rid of because it's confusing. But I am no longer sure it should be replaced with ... or anything at all.

I am looking for suggestions from other community members. Please post your own answer with thoughts!

  • 1
    Human Factors is commonly used in business jargon so it's what many people know it as. Human factors are design/process/etc elements designed to deal with the human factors in an artificial system like limited memory, typical human physical ability etc. It makes sense on JoJo's question for that reason; despite office furniture ads, ergonomics is not just "stuff made for human bodyparts to not give you arthritis"
    – Zelda
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 19:56
  • I guess my point was, given that it has both a jargon usage and a valid scientific usage, and it has a valid synonym which is (IMHO) more straightforward, we use the synonym ergonomics
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 19:57
  • 1
    The jargon usage is the valid scientific usage. Ergonomics if anything is more confusing as it's generally used to mean making physical things comfortable
    – Zelda
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 20:00
  • OK now I'm even more confused Ben! :-) This makes me feel even stronger that we should rid ourselves of human-factors but I don't know what should replace it. I'll wait for suggestions from others and/or you.
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 20:08
  • 1
    I strongly agree with burninate. Do we already have an HCI tag? If so, those two questions can be re-tagged as such since they happen to involve HCI. If we get other not-necessarily interaction with computer questions, then we can consider new tags. Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 21:37
  • human factor is distinct from ergonomics, though the definition varies by region (e.g. US vs UK). in the US, ergonomics typically refers to engineering physical objects based on the properties of the human body; HF refers to engineering interfaces or devices to based on what we know about the human mind. as a HF PhD student, im biased, but i think the tag is distinct and should be kept. for a good overview of what HF means, see don norman's 'the design of everyday things'
    – Jeff
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 18:55

Although this topic is quite old, and over the years the tag has gained some traction on this site (I would not go as far to say that it has manifested itself) I would like to give my opinion, given that the topic does not show a clear consensus.

My reasoning is exactly the same as Josh's, but I want to argue that the human factors tag ís useful, and should therefore stay. As is stated, human factors and ergonomics are practically synonyms, although ergonomics hints at the physical interaction between human and environment. For that reason, I would not like an ergonomics tag. I myself, and with me my colleagues and former professors, identify ourselfs as human factors experts, not ergonomists.

Then what is the field of human factors exactly? It's the study of, for instance, attention, workload, situation awareness, fatigue and cognitive control (multitasking ability), in relation with task performance. The idea is that these concepts are studied and how they change during particular tasks, environments or during the use of tools/automation. Given the fact that automation is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives, human factors are too.

So, in short, let's use as a tag, and place (which is non-existent as I just see now) as a synonym. The site focuses on cognitive sciences, so we should choose for the tag that is most closely related to cognition.


From wikipedia:

Human factors and Ergonomics (HF&E) is a multidisciplinary field incorporating contributions from psychology, engineering, industrial design, graphic design, statistics, operations research and anthropometry.

Those parts of human factors which apply to this site (psychology) most likely have a narrower suitable tag already.

If we allow a tag (or a tag for that matter), it would mainly be useful as a way to see what point of view a question is coming from. This would make it a meta tag which is discouraged on Stack Exchange.

On the other hand, personally I am very much interested in human-computer interaction. It would make sense for me to filter all those questions on the site related to the topic. However, this would be a bad filter, as certainly many more questions on this site are useful for HCI. My guess is a relevant search query does the job equally well.

Therefore I suggest we don't allow any tags from multidisciplinary fields which incorporates aspects from cognitive sciences.

  • 2
    I disagree with the sentiment of hci as a meta-tag. Just because your field is multi-disciplinary doesn't mean your tag is meta. How do you decide the boundary of a discipline? As for the argument of POV, I also disagree. Math-psych is a tag that says "I want the mathematical point of view on psych phenomena" and it is not a meta-tag (nor should it be). Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 17:06
  • @ArtemKaznatcheev: Concerning math-psych, the tag indicates what type of answer is expected. I don't think this is the case with hci or human-factors.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 17:27

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