Does a SWT Reverse Contagion Effect Exist from Humans to Automation?

Rian Mehta, Bhoomin Chauhan, Maarten Edwards, Timothy Rosser, Victoria Dunbar, Stephen Rice


This study examines passengers’ level of trust after a failure in a member of the flight crew. This study seeks to establish the possible presence of a reverse contagion effect wherein passenger trust in automated system components is affected by an error in a human system element. Trust was measured in five human entities and five automated aids with participants from both India and the United States. The human entities include the pilot, the co-pilot, the flight attendant, the maintenance manager, and the CEO of the airline. The automated aids were the oxygen masks, the auto-pilot system, the airplane’s flaps, the landing gear, and the video screens on the backs of the seats. This study was conducted in three stages, including two three-way ANOVAs to determine to effect, and meditation analyses to determine if affect mediates the effect. Participants were posed with two hypothetical scenarios, a control condition and a failure condition. The participants rated their levels of trust in the five different human entities and the five different automated aids. Trust was measured on a 7-point Likert type scale from –3 to +3. Questions relating to the participants’ feelings were also asked to measure affect. The results showed a decrease in trust in the automated aid after the human failure, as well as a country effect, and a mediating effect of affect.

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