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Understanding mental workload : from a clarifying concept analysis toward an implementable framework

Bram Van Acker (UGent) , Davy Parmentier (UGent) , Peter Vlerick (UGent) and Jelle Saldien (UGent)
(2018) COGNITION TECHNOLOGY & WORK. 20(3). p.351-365
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Abstract
The growing need for mental workload (MWL) optimization on the shop floor yields an impressive increase in theoretical and applied references to the concept of mental workload (Young et al. 2014). However, do we really understand and agree upon what mental workload exactly is? Does it include emotional load? Can we rely upon an explanatory framework? The present account first runs a critical concept analysis on mental workload, based on the Walker and Avant (2011) method. Results show that existing definitions and theoretical accounts arbitrarily include and exclude defining variables and describe these variables on various levels of abstraction, misuse pivotal terms such as mediation and moderation, and do not theoretically explicitate the role of yet repeatedly operationalized emotional load variables such as frustration. We therefore clarify the concept by disentangling MWL into its antecedents, defining attributes and consequences. Next, we derive a clear-cut conceptual definition and present a generic explanatory framework - the latter extended with insights from Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller 1988; 1994). We conclude with a set of suggestions for future research and practice. Next to contributing to the theoretical clarification of this hallmark concept, the concept analysis and derived explanatory framework, as proposed, can foster solid research practices and support practitioners in contextualizing MWL-assessment and in effectively optimizing MWL.
Keywords
mental workload, concept analysis, definition, cognitive load, framework

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Van Acker, Bram, Davy Parmentier, Peter Vlerick, and Jelle Saldien. 2018. “Understanding Mental Workload : from a Clarifying Concept Analysis Toward an Implementable Framework.” Cognition Technology & Work 20 (3): 351–365.
APA
Van Acker, B., Parmentier, D., Vlerick, P., & Saldien, J. (2018). Understanding mental workload : from a clarifying concept analysis toward an implementable framework. COGNITION TECHNOLOGY & WORK, 20(3), 351–365.
Vancouver
1.
Van Acker B, Parmentier D, Vlerick P, Saldien J. Understanding mental workload : from a clarifying concept analysis toward an implementable framework. COGNITION TECHNOLOGY & WORK. Springer; 2018;20(3):351–65.
MLA
Van Acker, Bram et al. “Understanding Mental Workload : from a Clarifying Concept Analysis Toward an Implementable Framework.” COGNITION TECHNOLOGY & WORK 20.3 (2018): 351–365. Print.
@article{8560361,
  abstract     = {The growing need for mental workload (MWL) optimization on the shop floor yields an impressive increase in theoretical and applied references to the concept of mental workload (Young et al. 2014). However, do we really understand and agree upon what mental workload exactly is? Does it include emotional load? Can we rely upon an explanatory framework? The present account first runs a critical concept analysis on mental workload, based on the Walker and Avant (2011) method. Results show that existing definitions and theoretical accounts arbitrarily include and exclude defining variables and describe these variables on various levels of abstraction, misuse pivotal terms such as mediation and moderation, and do not theoretically explicitate the role of yet repeatedly operationalized emotional load variables such as frustration. We therefore clarify the concept by disentangling MWL into its antecedents, defining attributes and consequences. Next, we derive a clear-cut conceptual definition and present a generic explanatory framework - the latter extended with insights from Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller 1988; 1994). We conclude with a set of suggestions for future research and practice. Next to contributing to the theoretical clarification of this hallmark concept, the concept analysis and derived explanatory framework, as proposed, can foster solid research practices and support practitioners in contextualizing MWL-assessment and in effectively optimizing MWL. },
  author       = {Van Acker, Bram and Parmentier, Davy and Vlerick, Peter and Saldien, Jelle},
  issn         = {1435-5558},
  journal      = {COGNITION TECHNOLOGY \& WORK},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {351--365},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  title        = {Understanding mental workload : from a clarifying concept analysis toward an implementable framework},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10111-018-0481-3},
  volume       = {20},
  year         = {2018},
}

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