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Cognitive Workload and Personality Style in PilotsHeart Rate Study

Résumé : The cognitive overload and emotion experienced by drivers become a primordial issue to study distraction. This is also the case in aviation, where pilots are commonly exposed to different sources of cognitive and emotional stressors and distractors. Therefore, the integration of an online monitoring to assess the cognitive variations into the cockpit would be highly desirable to alert of delicate mental states. To this aim, reliable physiological measures are required. Electrocardiography (ECG) can be considered as one of the most suitable and cost-effective techniques providing powerful and relevant features to study driver distraction and cognitive workload. Heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) parameters extracted from ECG signals are employed in aeronautics to determine the impact of different levels of mental overload in performance and decision-making. According to their findings, an increase in HR together with a decrease in HRV will be expected when cognitive workload becomes higher. Furthermore, the personality is an important factor to take into consideration for drivers and pilots. Several research works have indicated a particular personality profile in pilots, whose neuroticism component is significantly lower than the population norm, while they score higher on the conscientiousness facets. Given that physiological responses in general, and the cardiovascular activity in particular, are affected by personality traits, it is important to consider this issue in order to better control individual differences and to reach a fine-grained interpretation of the ECG measures linked to the pilot distraction produced by a supplementary task simultaneous to the flight. In this pilot study, the HR modulation susceptibility to arousal level elicited by a social stressor and the cognitive workload is study in 21 private pilots. As expected, HR was higher when cognitive workload increased, despite the surprising lack of arousal effect, arguably due to the safe simulated environment where a veritable vital risk did not exist. Although our participants demonstrated moderate scores on neuroticism, the higher level of this trait together with a lower score of conscientiousness were sufficient to produce quantifiable effects on HR, with increased response to cognitive workload only in the group 1 (N+C-), consistently with previous research works. The group 2 (N-C+), remained unaffected by cognitive workload variations, with globally higher HR values than the group 1. Most likely, pilots scoring higher in neuroticism and lower in conscientiousness better adapted their effort to the difficulty of the task (lower HR when task was simple, higher HR when task was more complex). Another interpretation of the result would be linked to the conscientiousness, since pilots with higher level of this trait could keep a higher level of vigilance over time, as evidenced by faster HR. Therefore, even if neuroticism is the least dominant personality trait in pilots, this result is relevant to implement the interfaces of highly automated aviation system where the operator mental state is crucial to react to certain situations. Interestingly, knowing which personality traits show greater physiological adaptability to cognitive workload variations can be useful to take into consideration in the selection of future pilots as well as in the application in similar contexts like the emerging autonomous vehicles. However, the limitation of the relatively small sample size leads us to be cautious with our conclusions. It would be desirable to complete the study in a larger population and to analyze the HRV parameters to complement HR.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 5:20:23 PM
Last modification on : Friday, February 7, 2020 - 2:52:03 PM

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Antonio R. Hidalgo-Munoz, Damien Mouratille, Mickaël Causse, Nadine Matton, Yves Rouillard. Cognitive Workload and Personality Style in PilotsHeart Rate Study. 6th International Conference on Driver Distraction and Inattention - DDI 2018, Oct 2018, GOTHENBURG, France. 6th International Conference on Driver Distraction and Inattention - DDI 2018, 1 p, 2018. ⟨hal-02459971⟩

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