The Arch Lab is the research arm affiliated with the Human Factors and Applied Cognition Program at George Mason University. At the time the Lab was founded, Wayne Gray and Deborah Boehm-Davis were the only two faculty members primarily identified with the human factors and applied cognition program. The two faculty members chose to merge their labs under one umbrella, merging Gray’s C-A-T (Cognition-Artifact-Task) laboratory with Boehm-Davis’ less colorfully-named Human Factors Laboratory. The goal of the merger was to build a central laboratory to encourage collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas among the students and faculty of the human factors and applied cognitive program. A number of different names were initially proposed for the lab. The first proposal, from Wayne, was CoSTAR – Cognition Science: Theory, Application, and Research.
However, the students in the program at that time wanted the term human factors included in the name. We challenged them to create such alternatives; they are shown below.
ORCHESTRAL – Organization of Cognitive Science and Human Engineering; Theory, Search, and Application Labs (pertaining to the arrangement, coordination, or manipulation of elements to achieve a goal or effect)
COHERENT– Cognitive Science & Human Engineering: Research, Engineering, and Theory (logically connected; consistent; harmonious)
ARCH – Application and Research of Cognitive Science and Human Factors (a curved structure spanning two sides)
COGENT – Cognitive Science and Ergonomics: (something) and Theory (forcefully convincing due to validity)
TORCH – Theory and Research of Cognitive Science and Human Factors (anything that serves to enlighten, guide, or inspire)
HECTARE – Human Engineering and Cognitive Science: Theory, Application, and Research (a metric measure of area equal to 100 acres).
The eventual winner was ARCH, with a slight change in wording to “Applied Research in Cognition and Human factors." One pillar of the arch represented the development of theory while the other pillar represented application domains with the arch providing a bridge between the two types of work through cognitive psychology.
Some years later, a decision was made to update the logo and to use the word “Arch” without using it as an acronym. The arch remained the bridge between theory and applications; some faculty members are primarily engaged in basic research, some are engaged primarily in applied research, and some are heavily engaged in both areas of endeavor.
When the lab was established, there were two primary application foci – human-computer interaction and transportation (driving), each using two primary approaches to the development of theory – experimentation and computational cognitive modeling. Over the years our research has expanded to incorporate numerous other application domains including automation, aviation, medical human factors, and robotics. It has also grown to encompass a wider range of basic research, including work on biological motion, eye movements, and visual perception. Although research in the lab continues to be primarily focused on behavioral and computational methods of research, convergent evidence from cognitive neuroscience (ERP, fMRI, TCD, fNIRS) plays an integral role in many of our research programs. This focus on neuroscience led to the establishment of the Center of Excellence in Neuroergonomics, Cognition, and Technology (CENTEC) in 2010. CENTEC research is focused on enhancing human effectiveness in air, space, and cyberspace operations through research in neuroergonomics, technology, and cognition.
The Arch Lab originally consisted of approximately 8 rooms and a shared conference room housed in a “modular building” on campus (the Chesapeake Module). Now in David King Hall, the lab is equipped with state-of-the-art technology including an acoustically shielded room for auditory research, infrared eye-tracking systems (some with magnetic head trackers), a high-speed (500 Hz) gaze-contingent display system, and other devices for auditory and visual stimulus presentation. Capabilities in the laboratory include low-fidelity part-task simulations, medium-fidelity simulations for aviation (commercial and general), air traffic control, driving, robotics, distributed (individual and team) decision making, and unmanned vehicle applications and high fidelity simulations for driving and general aviation.
Over the years a number of different agencies and industrial partners have funded our research efforts. In alphabetical order, the agencies that have funded or are currently funding research in the Arch Lab include the: Army Research Institute, Army Research Laboratory, Air Force Office of Sponsored Research, Air Force Research Laboratory, Center for Innovative Technology, Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Food and Drug Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Aviation and Space Administration, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Transportation Safety Board, Naval Research Laboratory, Office of Naval Research, and U.S. Product Safety Commission. Companies who have partnered with us on research include: Aptima, COMSIS, Engineering Research Associates, IBM, Inova Healthcare System, Linus Technologies, Perceptronics, and Science Applications International Corporation.
Arch Lab researchers have made significant research contributions to both cognitive psychology and human factors. Perhaps as important, the faculty has trained a significant proportion of the human factors practitioners working in the Washington metropolitan region. Former students are working in research and teaching positions in the academic, public, and private sectors, which includes industry, government, consulting, and research and development organizations. These students have been taught not only by the program faculty, but also by distinguished practitioners working in the region. These lecturers have included Jack Adams, Marilyn Sue Bogner, Alphonse Chapanis, Steve Fadden, Susanne Furman, Jack Laveson, Tom Mayfield, and David Meister. As the Arch Lab continues to thrive at Mason, we hope to inspire new generations of researchers and practitioners to excel in the professional community.
The Arch Lab has been home to numerous faculty members, staff, and students over the years. Student engagement in the lab has grown over the years, from roughly 5 undergraduate and 30 graduate students at the start to our current numbers of roughly 15 undergraduate and roughly 45 graduate students in any given year. The students who have trained in the lab are too numerous to mention by name. The faculty and staff who have been affiliated with the lab are listed below.
Adjunct and Affiliated Faculty:
Greg Trafton (NRL)
Jeffrey Fernandez (JFAssociates, Inc.)
Susanne Furman (NIST)
Rob Youmans (Google)
Brandon Beltz (MITRE)
Leonard Adelman (School of Information Technology)