Cognitive Ergonomics: Improving Mental Performance July 26 2017

Cognitive Ergonomics: Improving Mental Performance

Cognitive ergonomics involves the addressing the mental strain caused by our thinking processes while at work. The field of cognitive ergonomics continues to grow as companies realize the importance of creating a balance between human cognitive abilities and limitations in accordance with machines, computers, tasks and workplace environment. Generally, cognition in the workplace includes the following:


In Relation to Work Environment:


    • – Mental workload
    • – Skills and abilities
    • – Performance
    • – Human-computer interaction and user interface
    • – Human reliability
    • – Work stress
    • – Training


In Relation to a Given System:


    • – Perception
    • – Memory (short and long term)
    • – Reasoning
    • – Motor response


The rapid increase of software and computer use throughout the day as well as a faster paced work environment puts greater pressure and attention on employees’ cognitive processes. Humans must now work under tighter time constraints with simultaneous goals that may conflict. Therefore, cognitive ergonomics aims to reduce human error and increase performance.


Practical Applications


As automation and the use of machines increases, there is a greater emphasis on the user friendliness and interface of these tools. User-centered software design is pivotal for training new employees and increasing efficiency of current ones. It can be helpful to have workplace signs that are designed in a way that improves comprehension and compliance with business goals. Managing workload and increasing reliability of employees can be achieved through working systems and layout of environments.


When it comes to environments like cockpits or nuclear power plant control rooms, adaptations to the work environment can greatly improve usability, clarity and safety. Instrument and button displays play a big role in these types of jobs, and therefore the work panel can be adjusted in certain ways to reduce errors that could lead to catastrophe.


For Example:


    • – Ensure appropriate lighting and glare reductions to minimize reading errors for panel displays.

    • – Make controls and color schemes consistent in every situation to that staff can react correctly during an emergency or time sensitive situation.

    • – Curating a system that suppresses less important alarms when crucial ones are sounding in order to help employees prioritize reactions.


Automated systems and computer-based work will only take on an increasingly larger role in the workplace over time. Consider different aspects of your business that you consistently find results in human error or those that new employees take much longer to grasp. These could be areas of improvement for your systems or software.