The Effect of Performance Failure and Task Demand on The Perception of Mental Workload

Hancock, P.A. (1989). The effect of performance failure and task demand on the perception of mental workload. Applied Ergonomics, 20(3), 197-205.

An experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of incipient performance failure on subjective workload response. Unknown to the participants, there were two levels of demand embedded in the PC-based flight simulation performance task. These were included to assess whether task-naive subjects could distinguish variations in load in the face of repetitive performance failure. Results confirmed that participants were able to distinguish this change in load level under such circumstances and that failure resulted in higher perceived workload than did successful performance. Within these differences were significant effects dependent upon subject gender. In general, female participants performed more poorly and rated workload higher than their male counterparts. It is concluded that the experience of failure presents a significant source of workload in systems operation.

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