Preventing Cognitive Overload
In any production process, (such as navigating a cockpit or scrolling the latest social media application), multiple dynamic tasks that require flexible thinking and continually changing circumstances to evaluate can cause the human operator to become overwhelmed or heavily loaded at times.
By improving the quality of semantic episodes utilizing the concept of interaction rather than stimulation, the working memory as researched by Baddeley (2012) is more accurate in successful exchange in congruency with the long-term memory functions. Research has also shown that knowledge has an impact on experience (Goldstein, 2018). Therefore, the quality of recollection could be viewed as a function of the division and interaction between semantic episodes and episodic memory.
“Familiarity is associated with semantic memory because it is not associated with the circumstances under which knowledge was acquired. Recollection is associated with episodic memory because it includes details about what was happening when knowledge was acquired plus an awareness of the event as it was experienced in the past” (Goldstein, p. 176, 2018).
Pilots in particular face difficulties in cognitive overload as current research standards suggest. At this point without a universally accepted “working” definition, a specific “workload” cannot be determined which presents human factors professionals with the first challenge (Cain, 2007). In lieu of this issue, forward progression requires advancements to be made without all pieces of information in the present understanding. As a result, to reduce mistakes in task switching and improve the user experience by connecting human-centric design, a few options for the human-machine interface (HMI) could be considered.
Cognitive overload stems from a variety of stimuli which is not yet fully understood (Goldstein, 2018; Cain, 2007). Neuropsychologists support the separation of the short-term and long-term memory processes; yet “there is evidence that these functions are not as separated as previously thought” (Goldstein, p. 171, 2018). With this knowledge, as well as the ideas of chunking information and the phonological loop (Baddeley, 2012), would it be possible to integrate an interactive auditory alert that produced a visual screen response tied to a specific location in the visual scanning area during the main task of monitoring and vigilance based on the pilot’s best understanding of the required response?
Another consideration for task management would be the location of various gauges, sensors, and other visual displays of the necessary information. Due to the persistence of the visual effect, displays can be difficult to read when transitioning from scanning on a high level of attention with a low task load to immediate direct focus of both attention and workload stimuli. By integrating echoic memory and chunking of information with cognizance of the similarity effect, information could be received more effectively. Chunking creates neural patterns in the episodic buffer that relate to mental rotation (Goldstein, 2018). This would assist in the reduction of task-switching errors, effectively lessening the workload stress and improving cognitive functioning.
One last concept is the idea of focus rather than scrolling. During scanning, it is possible that automation bias could take effect due to a low task load. By integrating a display system based on Baddeley’s working memory concept (2012), a central “hub” for information could be developed which would integrate a visual display offering phonological cues and, even possibly, pressure changes or vibrational cues, in which a “focus” feature could be used by connecting the line of sight to a specific sector of space through biosensor metrics.
Improving cognitive control through task event-related potential (ERP) measurements would allow the interface to determine the allocation of attention as a function of the central executive to the external stimuli to present a series of steps that would bring the pilot from the current cognitive state to the needed state of alert without added stress from interacting with the human-machine interface (HMI) such as low-frequency vibrational noises (LFVN) or visual strains. By improving the semantic memory interactions, the safety of many can be enhanced by an increased functional result of a pilot’s division and interaction of the sensory and procedural memories leading to live-experience response based on healthy stasis supported by human-centric design.
Baddeley, A. (2012). A Lecture in Psychology: Working Memory: Theories, Models, and Controversies. Annual Reviews. Retrieved November 16, 2022, fromA Lecture in Psychology: Working Memory: Theories, Models, and Controversies.Links to an external site.
Cain, B. (2007). A Review of the Mental Workload Literature. Defense Technical Information Center with WayBack Machine. Retrieved November 16, 2022, from https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA474193.pdf Links to an external site..
Goldstein, E. B. (2018). Cognitive psychology: connecting mind research and everyday experience (5th ed.).128-189. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Guastello, S. J. (2013). Human factors engineering and ergonomics: A systems approach, second edition.103-138. Taylor & Francis Group.