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Title: Attention and automation: New perspectives on mental underload and performance
Authors: Young, MS
Stanton, NA
Keywords: Attention;Working memory;Resources;Mental workload;Automation
Issue Date: 2002
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Citation: Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science. 3(2): 178-194
Abstract: There is considerable evidence in the ergonomics literature that automation can significantly reduce operator mental workload. Furthermore, reducing mental workload is not necessarily a good thing, particularly in cases where the level is already manageable. This raises the issue of mental underload, which can be at least as detrimental to performance as overload. However, although it is widely recognized that mental underload is detrimental to performance, there are very few attempts to explain why this may be the case. It is argued in this paper that, until the need for a human operator is completely eliminated, automation has psychological implications relevant in both theoretical and applied domains. The present paper reviews theories of attention, as well as the literature on mental workload and automation, to synthesize a new explanation for the effects of mental underload on performance. Malleable attentional resources theory proposes that attentional capacity shrinks to accommodate reductions in mental workload, and that this shrinkage is responsible for the underload effect. The theory is discussed with respect to the applied implications for ergonomics research.
ISSN: ISSN: 1464-536X (electronic) 1463-922X (paper)
Appears in Collections:Design
Dept of Design Research Papers

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