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A qualitative model describing human interaction with complex dynamic systems is developed. The model is hierarchical in nature and consists of three parts: a behavior generator, an internal model, and a sensory information processor. The behavior generator is responsible for action decomposition, turning higher level goals or missions into physical action at the human-machine interface. The internal model is an internal representation of the environment which the human is assumed to possess and is divided into four submodel categories. The sensory information processor is responsible for sensory composition. All three parts of the model act in consort to allow anticipatory behavior on the part of the human in goal-directed interaction with dynamic systems. Human workload and error are interpreted in this framework, and the familiar example of an automobile commute is used to illustrate the nature of the activity in the three model elements. Finally, with the qualitative model as a guide, verbal protocols from a manned simulation study of a helicopter instrument landing task are analyzed with particular emphasis on the effect of automation on human-machine performance.