Autopsy of an airplane crash: a transactional approach to forensic cognitive science

In considerations of cognition in complex, technologically enhanced work environments, the question often concerns the boundaries of the phenomena to be researched. In classical cognitive science, the boundary of cognition is the brain case. More recent approaches, including distributed cognition and joint cognitive systems, draw the boundaries so that human operators and aspects of their environment are included; and the foci of the inquiries are interactions and representations that are passed around between players. This study makes a case for a transactional approach, which acknowledges a unity/identity of agent and environment. To understand the effect of agent characteristics in performance requires knowing the environment characteristics; and to understand the effect of the environment characteristics on performance requires knowing the agent characteristics. The approach is exemplified in the analysis of key instants of the spectacular and widely publicized crash of TransAsia Flight GE235 in which 43 lives were lost. The transactional analysis exhibits the internal cognitive dynamic in the cockpit that actually explains why agents acted as they did (rather than what they did not do because situation awareness lacked). It is better suited as a foundation of forensic cognitive science than the classical view on human error.


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  • Accession Number: 01673317
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 7 2018 10:02AM