mode confusion
(MOHD kun.fyoo.zhun) n. Confusion caused by complicated digital technology, particularly when it is difficult to discern the current state or mode of a digital device.

Example Citation:
Alan Cooper, whose consulting firm, Cooper, in Palo Alto, Calif., helps companies make their technical products easier to use, said the profusion of digital options often creates what he calls "mode confusion." This syndrome is known to afflict pilots who become dangerously befuddled by on-board automation, where a single control or sign could do or mean two different things.
—Katie Hafner, "Comforts of Home Yield to Tyranny Of Digital Gizmos," The New York Times, April 28, 2002

Earliest Citation:
The US Federal Aviation Administration is beginning a year-long study of modern airliner cockpit-design following concerns raised by recent accidents. ...

There have been accidents in which pilot flight mode-confusion is known, or believed to have been a contributory factor. These include the 20 January, 1992, Air Inter A320 crash on approach to Strasbourg, France (in which there were 88 fatalities) and the 26 April, 1994, China Air Lines A300-600 accident at Nagoya, Japan, in which 264 people died.

Several serious, but non-fatal incidents involving various types have also been judged by investigating authorities to be attributable to mode-confusion.
—"FAA to look at cockpit design," Flight International, January 4, 1995

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