Perceptual control and feedback control in the analysis of complex tasks

Denham L. Phipps, Don Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
557 Downloads (Pure)


Despite its extensive and successful use in the human factors specialist's work, there remain challenges for the development of task analysis. One such challenge is posed by the need to capture the features of the dynamic, complex tasks that take place in modern socio-technical systems. In this paper, we discuss the theoretical and practical implications of using perceptual control theory (PCT) as a theoretical grounding for task analysis. In particular, we describe the ability of PCT to combine the notion of perceptual control (which is similar to the assumptions underlying ecological design) with that of feedback control (which is fundamental to some traditional task analysis approaches). We describe some of the current PCT-based task analysis methods before introducing a new method that aims to integrate PCT concepts into hierarchical task analysis. Finally, we demonstrate how this method might be applied to a real-world dynamic control task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-516
Number of pages12
JournalTheoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science
Issue number5
Early online date18 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science on 18th February 2013, available online:


  • cybernetics
  • ecological interface design
  • ecological psychology
  • perceptual control theory
  • task analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics


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