Author(s): Estes S
OBJECTIVE: In this paper I begin looking for evidence of a subjective workload curve.
BACKGROUND: Results from subjective mental workload assessments are often interpreted linearly. However, I hypothesized that ratings of subjective mental workload increase nonlinearly with unitary increases in working memory load.
METHOD: Two studies were conducted. In the first, the participant provided ratings of the mental difficulty of a series of digit span recall tasks. In the second study, participants provided ratings of mental difficulty associated with recall of visual patterns. The results of the second study were then examined using a mathematical model of working memory.
RESULTS: An S curve, predicted a priori, was found in the results of both the digit span and visual pattern studies. A mathematical model showed a tight fit between workload ratings and levels of working memory activation.
CONCLUSION: This effort provides good initial evidence for the existence of a workload curve. The results support further study in applied settings and other facets of workload (e.g., temporal workload).
APPLICATION: Measures of subjective workload are used across a wide variety of domains and applications. These results bear on their interpretation, particularly as they relate to workload thresholds.International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation