December 5, 2012

Trust in Automation

by stef
Categories: 2. Automation information
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It would not be surprising to learn that the interaction people have with automation (such as the extent to which they use it) can depend on how much they trust it.  In general the greater the trust, the more inclined a person is to use the automation.  This is not necessarily a good thing , as people may then over-rely on automation resulting in less awareness of what is actually going on.  This is called being ‘out of the loop’, but that is another post.

There appears to be more than one type of trust. According to Merritt and Ilgen (2008) there is the type which is part of a person’s more stable characteristics: it is more dispositional.  People with positive trust-related experiences in general may have a higher dispositional trust.  Then there is trust which appears to depend on the experience and interactions with the automation.  Merritt and Ilgen called these Propensity to trust and History based trust respectively.

The characteristics of the automation influences history based trust.  The automation’s reliability is an example.  However people may not even use a reliable system if they believe it is untrustworthy, and this is where both design and dispositional trust is important:  the factors which influence how individuals trust others is likely to be the same as those between individuals and machines (Parasuraman and Riley, 1997).

There are other factors which influence an operator’s trust in automation.  Recent work by Merritt, Heimbaugh, LaChapell and Lee (2012) found that implicit attitudes interact with trust in automation.

In designing effective automation, the trust of the operator in the automation must be considered.  The factors influencing that trust, which can then influence the operator-machine interaction, lie in the characteristics of both the operator and the automation.


Merritt, S. M., Heimbaugh, H., LaChapell, J., & Lee, D. (2012). I Trust It, But I Don’t Know Why: Effects of Implicit Attitudes Toward Automation on Trust in an Automated System. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. doi: 10.1177/0018720812465081

Merritt, S. M., & Ilgen, D. R. (2008). Not all trust is created equal: Dispositional and history-based trust in human-automation interactions. Human Factors, 50(2), 194-210.

Parasuraman, R., & Riley, V. (1997). Humans and automation: Use, misuse, disuse, abuse. Human Factors, 39(2), 230.

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