Title: Review of the effects of fatigue on performance of laboratory tasks

Authors: Valerie J. Gawron

Addresses: The MITRE Corporation, 7515 Colshire Drive, McLean, VA 22102-7539, USA

Abstract: Fatigue has been cited as a causal factor in industrial, medical and transportation accidents. A common theme in the accident analyses has been the lack of knowledge about fatigue effects. What types of tasks are most susceptible to fatigue? How are the effects manifested? To answer these questions this article reviews the basic research on fatigue effects on performance of laboratory tasks. Tasks were categorised as vigilance, cognitive or psychomotor. Fatigue (as induced by sleep loss) consistently degrades vigilance performance regardless of task. Decrements include increased reaction time and decreased accuracy. For cognitive tasks, however, some researchers have reported increased time and decreased accuracy associated with fatigue, but not on all tasks or not consistently. For example, categorisation tasks show both decrements and no effects. Similar inconsistency exists for math (decrements and no decrements) and logical reasoning. However, fatigue consistently degrades tracking performance either performed alone or in a battery of tasks. In summary the research supports that at least in some cases of fatigue, humans cannot 'see straight', cannot 'think straight', cannot 'do anything right', cannot 'seem to pay attention' and cannot 'lift a finger'.

Keywords: fatigue effects; vigilance; cognition; psychomotor tasks; laboratory tasks; cognitive tasks; categorisation tasks; mathematical reasoning; logical reasoning; tracking performance.

DOI: 10.1504/IJHFE.2014.062551

International Journal of Human Factors and Ergonomics, 2014 Vol.3 No.1, pp.86 - 103

Received: 02 Aug 2013
Accepted: 10 Apr 2014

Published online: 06 Jun 2014 *

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