Experimental Ergonomics

Principle investigators: Melanie Karthaus,  Marlene Pacharra, Edmund Wascher
Staff: Julian Reiser
Funds: DFG KA 4120/2-1: Distraction while driving
Cooperation/Partners: Prof. Dr. Rudnger (uz Bonn)

Although there is no doubt that concepts of cognitive psychology (neuroscience) play an important role in many applied situations, it is often hard to translate experimental and methodological approaches into situations that are de facto close to real (work-) life scenarios. Reading, for example, is an essential skill for successful function in todays society and in real life work scenarios. Reading itself is a complex psychological process involving vision, attention, memory, and language comprehension and is, thus, a challenge when it comes down to performance and efficiency evaluations. Nevertheless, modern research technologies (like portable eye-tracking systems or EEG-solutions) and data analysis adaptation allow profound data acquisitions in real life settings.

So far, in this project three main scenarios were investigated:

  • Reading in the context of information and communication technology and design.
  • Driving simulation.
  • Workplace simulation.

While reading requires an experimental surrounding that is in many aspects comparable to an experimental psychology laboratory, most other work scenarios are not. When cognitive concepts, such as task load or task switching, are transferred into working environments, new experimental setups and additionally new measures have to be generated. In the context of driving simulation, varying crosswind has turned out to be a good manipulation of task load. However, driving becomes reactive and unpredictable. Additionally, measuring event-related activity of the EEG requires additional tasks that have to be synchronized carefully with the primary task. New variations of this setup have to be developed for the systematic evaluation of driving behavior.

Extending this view to workplaces in trade and industry makes experimentally controlled situations even harder to set up. In a first study, we simulated a workplace in logistics by combining different activities inherent in this job in a kind of circuit training (Wascher et al. 2014). Investigating eye-blink related activity allowed us to compare brain activity in completely different work situations. This approach is completely new and has to be extended and validated in the near future.

Moreover, new mobile near-infrared-spectroscopy (fNIRS), ECG, and EEG systems enable continuous and simultaneous registration of relevant work-related parameters. In particular, miniaturized recording devices such as the cEEGrid sensor array reduce the interference with the natural setting. The cEEGrid sensor array neatly fits around the ear resulting in increased wearer comfort and mobility compared to traditional cap EEG systems.


Recent publications

  • Wascher, E.; Getzmann, S.; Karthaus, M.: Driver state examination: treading new paths
    Anal. Prev. 91: 157-165 (2016)
  • Wascher E, Heppner H, Hoffmann S: Towards the measurement of event-related EEG activity in real-life working environments. Int J Psychophysiol 91: 3-9 (2014)
  • Wascher E, Heppner H, Kobald SO, Arnau S, Getzmann S, Möckel T: Age-sensitive effects of enduring work with alternating cognitive and physical load. A study applying mobile EEG in a real life working scenario. Front Hum Neurosci 9: article 711 (2016)
  • Wascher E, Heppner H, Möckel T, Kobald SV, Getzmann S: Eye-blinks in choice response tasks uncover hidden aspects of information processing. EXCLI J 14:1207-1218 (2015)