Traditionally, farmers and ranchers were expected to be skilled in many manual and physical tasks. Work psychologists found that dairy workers are proficient in nine separate tasks, ranging from operating milking machines to evaluating the health of cows. Thus, a traditional farmer needed to be a jack of all trades, with general skills in many areas.
However, with increased mechanization and computerization in agriculture, there is a shift. Instead of many general abilities, fewer specialized skills are necessary now. Instead of emphasizing manual skills, modern agribusiness places greater demand on cognitive abilities: For example, a combine harvester involves simultaneous control of at least seven tasks. Given this complexity, the high rate of farm accidents may be due, in part, to overstressed human factors components.
With the trend away from small family farms to large corporate farming, there is also a greater need for farmers with sophisticated problem-solving and management skills. This has produced changes in both the education and the practice of farmers. As a result, behavioral investigators turned their interests toward analysis of higher thought processes.
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