Importance of Emotion in Design for Pilot Performance

Pilots and Emotion

In the past, flying and emotion went hand in hand, however today flying is characterized by commoditization, congestion and complexity. It is generally believed that the flight deck is meant to be a detached and unemotional place, in which the crew serve as an extension of the aircraft system, in the cockpit do their jobs rationally and efficiently, even pilots consider themselves as emotionless and meant to have nerves of steel. However, it is known that emotions can easily drive and constrain cognitions and so it is necessary to consider how design can assist in creating the correct feeling while keeping with appropriate form and function.

There is also a contradiction that pilots face. It is not rational to choose to make a career in flying airplanes, as there is no logical connection between the risk and reward with much easier ways to make a living. Moreover, flying can be considered quite romantic, with the inspiration and wonder that it provokes. But flying is a job that is cognitive and physical in nature, performed best by pilots who are emotionally disciplined. However, these same pilots are attracted to this career because they resonate with the emotions that flying brings about.

Design and Emotion

It is known that attractive things work better, which implies that if there is little attention paid to aesthetics, then the design may result in unintended performance effects. In addition, aesthetics is known to reduce workload for the pilot and even improve performance, so returning functional beauty to the flight deck may be necessary in today’s flying age. The emotional features of flight deck design needs to be given justification. This can be achieved through the process of integrating form and function to give a feeling of aircraft integrity or discovered from further research into the aspects of design as is listed below:

1. Consideration of the feeling a pilot receives from the flight deck, e.g. control, precision, engagement, power.

2. Consideration of the consequences of the design negatively affecting a pilot.

3. Suitable visual, auditory and tactile modalities and interactions which are associated with aesthetics in a flight deck.

4. The interaction of aesthetics with basic spatial and temporal perception, cognition, and decision-making

Future of Design

A greater understanding and interchange among the disciplines of industrial design and human factors is necessary to achieve the potential associated with aesthetic design and pilot performance. The integration of human factors into flying owing to aerospace showed the potential to expand advancement in this field, and it is likely that there is further potential for advancement to be found in the integration of flight deck form and function, ultimately leading to the inclusion of beauty in the design. The right integration of form and function is an essential foundation for any undertaking to be successful.


Wise, J. A., Hopkin, V. D., & Garland, D. J. (2010). Hand book of aviation human factors (2nd ed.). US: Taylor and Francies Group.

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