What is it about?

Knowing when a task is going to be too much to handle, or when you are at your limit, can often be important - especially when doing a careful or even safety critical time. Sometimes you should take a break, but being so involved in the task means that you don't realise until afterwards. This study tests to see whether a newer brain scanner, which monitors the oxygen in the front of your brain using painless infrared light, can detect high cognitive effort effectively, and whether there is value in telling people this.

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Why is it important?

Many more jobs and tasks are becoming more cognitively challenging than physically challenging, but we are less good at recognising when we are cognitively tired, than physically tired. Sometimes we would be more effective at work, or do a better job of e.g. doing our personal finances, if we took a break at the right time - we cant work hard for 24/7 - this work aims to help us better understand our cognitive limits.


There are interesting ethical questions about personal data that emerge from this type of work, especially with recent news of a company in china 'monitoring its staff' - personal brain data is an important future question (when we are 'mentally having a sit down'), as technology begins to make it as observable as physical activity (actually sitting down). Also - lesson learned: big red alert lights increase mental workload, rather than take action to reduce it.

Max Wilson
University of Nottingham

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Workload Alerts—Using Physiological Measures of Mental Workload to Provide Feedback During Tasks, ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, April 2018, ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), DOI: 10.1145/3173380.
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