Evaluating Operators’ Real-Time Mental Workload with Eye Movement Analysis in Nuclear Power Plants’ Operations

Jinding Xing, Zhe Sun, Pingbo Tang, Alper Yilmaz, Ronald Laurids Boring, G. Edward Gibson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Nuclear power plant (NPP) operators need to have sufficient real-time cognitive ability to ensure their adherence to operational procedures and solve unexpected problems. The heavy cognitive load will degrade such ability and lead to operation errors. Previous studies show that the NPP workflows' (a network of activities) properties, such as workflow structure types, activity types, and recurring activities, can significantly impact the operators' cognitive load. However, which workflow properties could lead to a higher cognitive load are unclear. This study examines what workflow properties pose cognitive challenges to operators and quantitatively evaluates these properties' impact on the operators' cognitive load. The authors designed a simulation experiment on a nuclear reactor operation simulator called "Rancor" and recruited four students as pseudo-operators to perform reactor startup tasks. In the experiment, we collected the students' eye movement data using a mobile eye tracker. Participants' pupil diameter changes and eye movement types can indicate cognitive load and information searching strategies. The correlation analysis results indicate that workflow structure (i.e., sequential and parallel structures) and activity types correlate with participants' pupil diameter changes. Such correlation indicates that parallel structure and recurring activities demand relatively high cognitive efforts. Moreover, eye movement analysis reveals that recurring activities require more fixed attention from operators. Overall, a quantitative evaluation of the relationship between workflow properties and the cognitive process advances understanding about NPP operators' cognitive load and information searching strategies while executing different types of workflows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationComputing in Civil Engineering 2021 - Selected Papers from the ASCE International Conference on Computing in Civil Engineering 2021
EditorsR. Raymond A. Issa
PublisherAmerican Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
Pages1457-1464
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780784483893
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021
Event2021 International Conference on Computing in Civil Engineering, I3CE 2021 - Orlando, United States
Duration: Sep 12 2021Sep 14 2021

Publication series

NameComputing in Civil Engineering 2021 - Selected Papers from the ASCE International Conference on Computing in Civil Engineering 2021

Conference

Conference2021 International Conference on Computing in Civil Engineering, I3CE 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityOrlando
Period9/12/219/14/21

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications

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