What Makes Vicarious Functioning Work? Exploring the Geometry of Human-Technology Interaction

Asaf Degani, Michael Shafto, Alex Kirlik

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter provides a Brunswikian perspective on human interaction with everyday technologies, such as traffic lights, automotive devices (e.g., warning systems), and also advanced technologies, such as flight control systems in modern airliners. It applies this perspective toward suggesting a framework for evaluating interface designs and for ultimately improving the usability, robustness, and effectiveness of a range of interactive technologies. A field study of human-automation interaction in commercial aviation is described. The crucial role played by continuity in supporting the intuitive, adaptive mode behavior Brunswik described as vicarious functioning is addressed. In addition, the implications for the design of human-automation interaction are given. It is hoped that the insights that have been offered about the geometry of human-technology interaction will take at least a small step toward remedying the user frustration, confusion, and in the case of high-risk systems, the possibility of disaster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdaptive Perspectives on Human-Technology Interaction
Subtitle of host publicationMethods and Models for Cognitive Engineering and Human-Computer Interaction
EditorsAlex Kirlik
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199847693
ISBN (Print)9780195374827
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Brunswikian perspective
  • Flight control systems
  • Geometry
  • Human-technology interaction
  • Traffic lights
  • Vicarious functioning
  • Warning systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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