Cognitive Basis for Human Reliability Analysis (NUREG-2114)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: June 2015
Date Published: January 2016

Prepared by:
April M. Whaley,1 Jing Xing2
Ronald L. Boring,1 Stacey M. L. Hendrickson,3
Jeffrey C. Joe,1 Katya L. Le Blanc,1 Stephanie L. Morrow2

1Idaho National Laboratory
2U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
3Sandia National Laboratories

Erasmia Lois and Jing Xing, NRC Project Managers

Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

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This report documents the results of a literature review to synthesize human cognition research into a technical basis for human reliability analysis. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) organized a team of researchers to review literature in psychology, cognition, behavioral science, and human factors and apply it to human performance in nuclear power plant operations. The project team synthesized the results into a cognitive framework that consists of five macrocognitive functions: (1) detecting and noticing, (2) understanding and sensemaking, (3) decisionmaking, (4) action, and (5) teamwork. For each macrocognitive function, the team identified proximate causes for why the cognitive function may fail, cognitive mechanisms underlying the failures, and factors that influence the cognitive mechanisms and may lead to human performance errors. Moreover, the project team used the information in the literature to infer causal relationships and links between different types of human failures and factors that influence human performance. This report provides a cognitive basis for human performance and a structured framework to assess how human performance may contribute to errors in the context of an evolving event scenario. The information can serve as the technical foundation for the NRC's human reliability analysis methods and human factors engineering guidance.

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