Attentional costs and failures in air traffic control notifications

Abstract : Large display screens are common in supervisory tasks, meaning that alerts are often perceived in peripheral vision. Five air traffic control notification designs were evaluated in their ability to capture attention during an ongoing supervisory task, as well as their impact on the primary task. A range of performance measures, eye-tracking and subjective reports showed that colour, even animated, was less effective than movement, and notifications sometimes went unnoticed. Designs that drew attention to the notified aircraft by a pulsating box, concentric circles or the opacity of the background resulted in faster perception and no missed notifications. However, the latter two designs were intrusive and impaired primary task performance, while the simpler animated box captured attention without an overhead cognitive cost. These results highlight the need for a holistic approach to evaluation, achieving a balance between the benefits for one aspect of performance against the potential costs for another. Practitioner summary: We performed a holistic examination of air traffic control notification designs regarding their ability to capture attention during an ongoing supervisory task. The combination of performance, eye-tracking and subjective measurements demonstrated that the best design achieved a balance between attentional power and the overhead cognitive cost to primary task performance.
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Jean-Paul Imbert, H.M Hodgetts, Robert Parise, François Vachon, Frédéric Dehais, et al.. Attentional costs and failures in air traffic control notifications . Ergonomics, Taylor & Francis, 2014, 57 (12), pp.1817-1832. ⟨10.1080/00140139.2014.952680⟩. ⟨hal-01186651⟩

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