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Driving Monotonous Routes in a Train Simulator: The Effects of Task ...

Driving Monotonous Routes in a Train Simulator: The Effects of Task ...

Driving Monotonous Routes in a Train Simulator: The Effects of Task

Driving Monotonous Routes in a Train Simulator: The Effects of Task Demand. Naomi DUNN School of Risk & Safety Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia Ann WILLIAMSON Department of Aviation, University of New South Wales, Australia Abstract Task-related characteristics, such as monotony and task-related fatigue, have been shown to contribute to performance decrements over time, with previous research indicating that increasing the cognitive demands of a task can improve performance over time of an otherwise monotonous task. Therefore, the aim of this study is to determine if task demand affects train drivers’ driving performance on monotonous routes. Using a train simulator, 30 train drivers “drove” for a continuous 3 hour period on a very simple route in either a low or high task demand condition. Driving performance was based on number of speed zone violations. Scales rating workload, boredom proneness, fatigue and task characteristics were also administered. Preliminary results indicate that both conditions produced similar levels of subjective fatigue with no difference in fatigue ratings between the conditions. The high demand condition was also rated as being significantly more mentally demanding and effortful and less monotonous than the low demand condition. Performance data is currently being analysed. Monotony is a problem in the rail industry and this work will make a significant contribution to our knowledge of monotony-related effects on the performance of train drivers and possible ways to mitigate negative performance effects. Keywords Monotony, task demands, fatigue, performance. 1. Introduction Monotony has been formally recognised as a problem in the workplace as far back as the 1920’s (Wyatt et al, 1929). Despite monotony being a well-known and recognised problem it is a poorly understood concept and there is surprisingly little research examining the problem of monotony per se. Monotony is closely intertwined with vigilance and fatigue as much of the research investigating vigilance performance over time employs inherently monotonous tasks, which are associated with increases in subjective fatigue and hypovigilance. The effect of the monotony of the task itself is largely ignored. Previous research using a driving simulator has shown that poor vigilance performance is more frequent in monotonous contexts (Michael & Meuter, 2006) and steering performance was also significantly worse in a monotonous environment (Thiffault & Bergeron, 2003). Monotony is defined as an objective task-related characteristic of an environment that is unchanging or changes in a repetitive and predictable way (Davies et al, 1983; McBain,

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