“Cognitive Efficiency” in Display Media: A First Investigation of Basic Signal Dimensions Conference Paper uri icon


  • In many work domains, such as aviation cockpits and hospital operation rooms, data overload can result when a human operator is unable to make efficient use of his/her limited cognitive resources in processing task-relevant data. One way to address this problem is to design displays that communicate data in a mentally economical way, either by increasing the information content, or decreasing the demand on cognitive resources. This paper introduces a metric - "Cognitive Efficiency" (CE) - expressed as a ratio of display informativeness to resource demand, which can be used to compare the effectiveness of various display types for a given task environment. The present study explored CE ratios for basic visual and auditory displays modulated by either the intensity or spectral properties (e.g., hue, pitch) of the light/sound signal. Among other findings, the results showed that visual displays are more efficient than auditory displays when more information content is present, and spectral modulation is more efficient than intensity modulation. Interesting differences are highlighted between CE ratios that use subjective (NASA-TLX) and those that use physiological (EEG) workload measures. The findings have implications for the study of human information processing, display design, and the development of metrics for display effectiveness. Copyright 2012 by Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Inc. All rights reserved.

author list (cited authors)

  • Yang, S., Shukla, K., & Ferris, T. K.

citation count

  • 2

publication date

  • September 2012