The concept of human Mental Workload (MWL) has a long history in the fields of ergonomics and psychology, with several applications in the aviation and automobile industry. Although MWL has been under investigation for the last five decades, no clear definition that is universally accepted has emerged. Most of the work concerning MWL was done in the seventies and eighties when the proliferation of computer-based systems was not as extended as it is nowadays. Until the nineties, researches on MWL seemed to conflict in relation to their theories, definitions, sources, measurement typologies as well as computational modeling techniques. Unfortunately, the situation nowadays is little different, and although several MWL-based applications have emerged in the first decade of the new millennium, these are still based on earlier theories and methodologies. This state-of-the-art research is justified by the fact that defining and modeling MWL is a non-trivial problem. This complexity was earlier acknowledged and researchers felt that no representative measure of mental workload was likely to have a general use. This complexity is also acknowledged by more researchers who, nowadays, still confirm that MWL is difficult to be uniquely defined, due to its multi-faceted and multi-dimensional nature. Despite these discouraging issues, it has been argued, in line with many researchers, that MWL remains an extremely important design concept that would benefit from a significant and challenging re-investigation. Since modern advances in technology have been driving human activity more cognitively oriented and less physical, this re-investigation should be mainly imprinted on the multidisciplinary domain of human-computer interaction. The focus will be on modeling mental workload within fast-growing areas such as the World Wide Web in contrast to traditional application areas such as in aviation, automobile and manufacturing/automation.
In the study under this generic protocol, your mental workload will be assessed while you perform one or two fact-finding tasks.
Mental workload will be assessed by gathering evidence employing two typologies of methods:
- Subjective measures: digital questionnaires using self-report scales and/or
- Primary Task Performance measure: A non-invasive piece of software for gathering human activity over a technological device (computer/mobile/tablet). This activity will include actions such as mouse clicking, scrolling, movement, as well as keyboard usage.
In either case, gathered evidence will be stored in a private database, password protected and will only be accessed by this study's researchers for research purposes. To guarantee the participant’s privacy, sensitive personal data such as name, surname, date of birthday will not be collected. However, some demographical info will be collected for analytical purposes and an email address will be requested to inform the participant of further studies or in case something needs to be communicated. A minimum of 20 responses will be collected for each planned task. The study aims to capture detailed pieces of information and/or detailed performed actions to automatically assess the imposed mental workload imposed on the participant by a given web task. All actions the participant performs over the experiment web site be recorded and saved.
The job of the participant is to perform a computer-based task interacting as natural as possible with the technology provided. The research that is performed under this protocol is conducted in accordance with the ethics guidelines set by Dublin Institute of Technology. The rights of a participant, including the right to withdraw at any point without penalty, are ensured. It is anticipated that the findings of the study conducted under this protocol will be written in the student's thesis report. All results will be anonymised and it will not be possible to identify individual participants' name or email.
For further information please feel free to contact the research supervisor: Dr. Luca Longo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Is the study anonymous?
Yes, the studies conducted under this protocol are totally anonymous, collected data will not be linked to the participant’s identity.
2) Will the participant’s experience while executing a computer-based task be altered by any monitoring technology?
No, the participant’s experience while executing a computer-based task will not change. The monitoring technology, if applied, will be completely invisible and non-invasive.
3) Will data the participant inputs online such as logins and passwords be captured and stored somewhere?
No, data entered online such as form input, logins, passwords, or email addresses, will not be recorded.
4) How is the participant’s privacy guaranteed?
The participant’s personal data will not be stored. Logins, password, and any data entered into forms or over social networks, wikis, blogs, or other resources will never be recorded.
5) Will recorded data be linked to the participant?
No, recorded data will never be linked to the participant. Employed software will randomly generate a code to identify the participant’s interactions with provided technologies or devices over time, but this code can never be associated with the participant’s personal data, computer IP, or computer MAC address as such information is never stored.
6) Is the captured data stored in a public database?
No, the captured data will be stored in a private password-protected database.
7) Who will have access to stored participants' data, and what about confidentiality?
Only the researcher of the studies conducted under this protocol will have access to your interaction data, exclusively for research purposes. The researcher will never be able to associate any stored data with the identity of a specific participant, as this information is never stored. No one else will have the right to access any stored information.
8) What does the monitoring software look like?
The monitoring software employed in the studies conducted under this protocol is totally transparent. It comes as either a background application – such as a plug-in/add-on for the browsers (Firefox or Chrome) that is installed only once, or a non-invasive and hidden tracking software. Nothing further is required