Australasian Mathematical Psychology Conference 2019

Flying blind: Does adding information really help?

Reilly Innes
Psychology, University of Newcastle
Zachary Howard
University of Newcastle
Alexander Thorpe
University of Newcastle
Ami Eidels
University of Newcastle
Scott Brown
University of Newcastle

In driving and avionics, as well as many other information rich environments, the user interface is responsible for providing accessible and useful information without making the task more difficult. Adding information into a display is often viewed as a way to make a task easier and make use of emerging technology. However, designers often fail to account for the possible cost this may have on cognitive workload or task performance. In collaboration with Airbus & Hensoldt, we investigated the effects of new heads up display technology, which aimed to increase the amount of available information to pilots. Using the detection response task (DRT), we provide a measure of cognitive workload during a simulated helicopter flight. Thirteen pilots completed a 2x2 within-subjects experiment, where visual environment and level of information was manipulated. Participants response times to the DRT provide an index of cognitive workload, and this measure was analysed alongside flight performance. Results indicated that increased information improved flight performance. Furthermore, DRT results indicated that cognitive workload was relatively unaffected by the level of symbology. This initial experiment is useful but requires a level of questioning as to possible alternative explanations for results – which should be addressed in future studies.