Understanding reliance on automation: Effects of error type, error distribution, age and experience

Julian Sanchez, Wendy A. Rogers, Arthur D. Fisk, Ericka Rovira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An obstacle detection task supported by 'imperfect' automation was used with the goal of understanding the effects of automation error types and age on automation reliance. Sixty younger and sixty older adults interacted with a multi-task simulation of an agricultural vehicle (i.e. a virtual harvesting combine). The simulator included an obstacle detection task and a fully manual tracking task. A micro-level analysis provided insight into the way reliance patterns change over time. The results indicated that there are distinct patterns of reliance that develop as a function of error type. A prevalence of automation false alarms led participants to under-rely on the automation during alarm states while over-relying on it during non-alarm states. Conversely, a prevalence of automation misses led participants to over-rely on automated alarms and under-rely on the automation during non-alarm states. Older adults adjusted their behaviour according to the characteristics of the automation similar to younger adults, although it took them longer to do so. The results of this study suggest that the relationship between automation reliability and reliance depends on the prevalence of specific errors and on the state of the system. Understanding the effects of automation detection criterion settings on human-automation interaction can help designers of automated systems to make predictions about human behaviour and system performance as a function of the characteristics of the automation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-160
Number of pages27
JournalTheoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • agricultural
  • automation
  • compliance
  • reliance
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics


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