The psychology of flight

12 January 2021

We’ve featured aviation psychology, fear of flying, aircraft safety and more:

‘Small things can have a huge impact in air traffic control’
Anna Collard-Scruby on her work as a Senior Human Factors Specialist with an air traffic control company

Why we should fear the fear of unlikely threats
Scroll down to find David G. Myers and Gerd Gigerenzer on the fear of flying

The flying psychologist
Robert Williams, a clinical psychologist, reflects on nearly 20 years of mental health service delivery with the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia

Looking down on a phobia from 3000 feet
Petrina Cox reviews the book The Man with His Head in the Clouds, about James Sadler, the first English person to fly

Improving aircraft safety
Don Harris discusses the role of human error in air accidents and how aviation psychology has contributed to making flying as safe as possible

Meeting a high flyer
Robert Bor on aviation psychology – and we later reported on his Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Aeronautical Society for ‘outstanding and lasting contributions that he has made in the field of aviation clinical psychology’

Of pilots, astronauts and robots
Iya Whiteley on human-computer interactions and more

We’ve looked at drone flight in remote warfare:

Disengaging morality from robotic war
Albert Bandura on the increasing use of military drones and the psychology that enables it… Peter Lee responds, and Albert Bandura continues correspondence

‘There is a spectrum of responses to killing far-off enemies’
Peter Lee tells us in more detail about his research into the experiences of armed drone pilots

We’ve also considered the detrimental environmental impact of flying and how psychology might change attitudes towards flying:

‘Almost every area of psychology has something to contribute to addressing climate change’
Lorraine Whitmarsh on psychology’s role in tackling climate change

Fly or die in academia?
Annie Brookman-Byrne reports from the symposium ‘Reducing academic flying’ 

We’ve flown out of this world into space…

From underworlds to outerworlds
Nathan Smith on long duration space travel

'Everyone felt that it was up to them to step up to the mark'
Richard Wiseman on his book, 'Shoot for the Moon: Achieve the Impossible with the Apollo Mindset', and an extract

Spacelab revisited
Helen E. Ross recalls an ‘out of this world’ research experience

Ups and downs of space flight
Ella Rhodes reports from an event at the Science Museum

Psychology in deep space
Nick Kanas considers issues and countermeasures

New horizons
Christian Jarrett takes psychology into space, discovering how astronauts are selected and supported 

We’ve considered unidentified flying objects and more:

Close encounters of the psychological kind
Christopher C. French considers explanations of UFO sightings, alien encounters and even abductions

We’ve even covered children who can fly…

'J.M. Barrie was a close observer of human and animal behaviour’
Chris Frith meets Rosalind Ridley, to discuss her book on the mind of the Peter Pan author

Over on our Research Digest we’ve covered studies on flight:

Astronauts need a decent night’s sleep too – Matthew Warren
First ever study into how spaceflight changes brain structure – Christian Jarrett
Sorry to say, but your pilot’s decisions are likely just as irrational as yours and mine – Alex Fradera
If your plane gets lost you’d better hope there’s an orienteer on board – Christian Jarrett

And we’ve found these resources elsewhere on psychology and flight:

Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective – book edited by Douglas A. Vakoch hosted on the NASA website

In 2017, the BPS released the position statement ‘Aviation and aerospace psychology: Pilot mental health and wellbeing

How to think slow and fight the fear of flying – Peter Kinderman in The Conversation

Seeing Earth from space changes you – and you don’t even have to leave the planet – Annahita Nezami in The Conversation

How airplane passengers behave under pressure – Helen Muir for BBC World Service

How flying seriously messes with your mind – Richard Gray in BBC Future

Odd jobs: Psychology and aviation – Heather Stringer for the American Psychological Association