When analysis of human behavior is needed in a professional setting, a human factors expert is often consulted. He or she is specially trained in engineering and psychology to assess how humans interact with each other and the world. While human factors experts often work in legal proceedings, they are also helpful in other areas, such as insurance operations research or industrial design.
Experts on human behavior typically hold doctorate degrees. They have extensive background in the sciences, especially psychology, sociology, engineering, and other areas. Linguistics, pathology, and criminology are also often used by human behavior experts. To be considered credible experts, they also usually have many papers, books, or other materials published.
Also known as a human factors consultant or human factors engineer, this type of expert may be required in a variety of settings. When working with insurance companies, he or she may help assess customer risk and vehicle safety. A government human factors expert might work with a city engineering team to help build the safest buildings and travel systems possible. Companies that need to reassess safety issues may also hire a human factors expert to help show them how to create a safer work environment.
Human factors experts called in to testify in legal proceedings can also vary in their expertise. They may help explain human behavior in relation to personal injury cases, murder trials, and any other matters requiring scientific knowledge. These scientists may testify on basic components of a case, such as the perception of an eyewitness during a police lineup or while recalling past events.
Specific factors of a case, such as a defendant's defense strategy or the validity of a medical issue, may also be explained by a hired human factors expert. Many cases that deal with very unique, specific illnesses or defense strategies often rely on a human factors expert in order to attest to the validity of the matters in question. Both defense and prosecution lawyers may use these experts.
Some human factors experts provide additional help for clients beyond consultations. They may perform research specific to that client's needs, informing the client of both current scientific standards as well as new research and developments in areas of interest. They can develop an individual publication strictly for a company's use, identifying safety strategies for internal use. Training clients and their workers in safety techniques and procedures may also be included in the job.