Control room operators’ cue utilization predicts cognitive resource consumption during regular operational tasks

Daniel Sturman*, Mark W. Wiggins, Jaime C. Auton, Shayne Loft, William S. Helton, Johanna I. Westbrook, Jeffrey Braithwaite

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
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This study was designed to examine whether qualified practitioners’ cue utilization is predictive of their sustained attention performance during regular operational tasks. Simulated laboratory studies have demonstrated that cue utilization differentiates cognitive load during process control tasks. However, it was previously unclear whether similar results would be demonstrated with qualified practitioners during familiar operational tasks. Australian distribution network service provider (DNSP) operators were classified with either higher or lower cue utilization based on an assessment of cue utilization within the context of electrical power distribution. During two, 20-min periods of operators’ regular workdays, physiological measures of workload were assessed through changes in cerebral oxygenation in the prefrontal cortex compared to baseline, and through eye behavior metrics (fixation rates, saccade amplitude, and fixation dispersion). The results indicated that there were no statistically significant differences in eye behavior metrics, based on levels of cue utilization. However, as hypothesized, during both sessions, operators with higher cue utilization demonstrated smaller increases in cerebral oxygenation in the prefrontal cortex from baseline, compared to operators with lower cue utilization. The results are consistent with the proposition that operators with higher cue utilization experience lower cognitive load during periods of regular activity during their workday, compared to operators with lower cue utilization. Assessments of cue utilization could help identify operators who are better able to sustain attention during regular operational tasks, as well as those who may benefit from cue-based training interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1967
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2019


Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Attentional processes
  • Eye movements
  • Near-infrared spectroscopy
  • Process control
  • Sustained attention

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