Time Sharing between Robotics and Process Control: Validating a Model of Attention Switching

Christopher Dow Wickens, Robert S. Gutzwiller, Alex Vieane, Benjamin A. Clegg, Angelia Sebok, Jess Janes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this study was to validate the strategic task overload management (STOM) model that predicts task switching when concurrence is impossible. Background: The STOM model predicts that in overload, tasks will be switched to, to the extent that they are attractive on task attributes of high priority, interest, and salience and low difficulty. But more-difficult tasks are less likely to be switched away from once they are being performed. Method: In Experiment 1, participants performed four tasks of the Multi-Attribute Task Battery and provided task-switching data to inform the role of difficulty and priority. In Experiment 2, participants concurrently performed an environmental control task and a robotic arm simulation. Workload was varied by automation of arm movement and both the phases of environmental control and existence of decision support for fault management. Attention to the two tasks was measured using a head tracker. Results: Experiment 1 revealed the lack of influence of task priority and confirmed the differing roles of task difficulty. In Experiment 2, the percentage attention allocation across the eight conditions was predicted by the STOM model when participants rated the four attributes. Model predictions were compared against empirical data and accounted for over 95% of variance in task allocation. More-difficult tasks were performed longer than easier tasks. Task priority does not influence allocation. Conclusions: The multiattribute decision model provided a good fit to the data. Applications: The STOM model is useful for predicting cognitive tunneling given that human-in-the-loop simulation is time-consuming and expensive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-343
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • attentional processes
  • cognition
  • dual task
  • human performance modeling
  • manufacturing
  • methods and skills
  • process control
  • process control systems
  • robotics
  • task switching
  • time sharing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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