The Effects of the Type of Rest Breaks on Return-to-Task Performance in Semi-automated Tasks with Varying Complexities

  • S. ZschernackEmail author
  • M. Göbel
  • Z. Hoyi
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 823)


Automation in the aviation industry is acknowledged as a useful tool in reducing pilot workload. Different types of rest tasks are commonly prescribed fatigue countermeasures in the industrial setting and have been showed to elicit beneficial effects on prolonged human performance. Understanding the effects of different rest break activity and time out-of-the-loop during semi-automated flying on return to task performance has been adequately studied, thus highlighting its importance in the context of flight safety.

The present study requested participants to perform a tracking task in a laboratory where they changed from activity (30 min) to a break (2 vs. 30 min) and back to the activity (20 min). The task varied in the complexity of the activity (pure tracking vs. tracking plus memory plus rule-based decision making), the type of break (passive rest vs. actively supervising) and the duration of the break (2 min vs. 30 min). Performance was measured as effective response time in the tracking task and number of correct responses to secondary cognitive tasks.

Physiological measures included heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV- time and frequency-domain), eye blink frequency and duration. The Karolinska Sleepiness Scale was used as a subjective measure.

The study concluded that active, administrative tasks, which allowed the operator to maintain some form of situational awareness by monitoring the automated system, achieved favourable effects of being more alert than the passive rest break of being disengaged from the system. The shorter duration of being out-of-the-loop from controlling the system proved to be more advantageous than the longer out-of-the-loop duration. In looking at the workload levels of arousal, the results suggest that the higher workload level is better at maintaining the alertness of operators.


Return-to task performance Rest break Semi-automated tasks 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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