Comparative Analysis of Machine Learning Techniques in Assessing Cognitive Workload

  • Colin ElkinEmail author
  • Vijay Devabhaktuni
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 953)


Cognitive workload refers to the amount of mental capacity that is stored in working memory and remains a vital yet challenging aspect of many human factors applications. This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of alternatives for different machine learning techniques used for assessing mental workload. This methodology consists of five techniques and four datasets. Each dataset consists of physiological factors such as electrodermal activity (EDA) or heart rate data as well as subjective factors. When evaluating our techniques, we compare accuracy, runtime, and F1 score across multiple different method-specific experimental parameters. Ultimately, the results indicate that ANNs perform best on datasets with large numbers of inputs and classification options, while decision trees are most ideal under a lower number of output possibilities. By understanding these individual strengths and weaknesses, we can ultimately improve the balance of ideal human performance through early detection of cognitive overload or underload.


Cognitive workload Machine learning Artificial neural networks Support vector machines K-nearest neighbors Decision trees Random forests 



This research is supported by the Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute (DAGSI) fellowship program for a project titled “Assessment of Team Dynamics Using Adaptive Modeling of Biometric Data.” The authors wish to thank their DAGSI sponsor Dr. Gregory Funke for his continued guidance and support throughout the project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ECE DepartmentPurdue University NorthwestHammondUSA

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