Continuously Informing Vibrotactile Displays in Support of Attention Management and Multitasking in Anesthesiology Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: A novel vibrotactile display type was investigated to determine the potential benefits for supporting the attention and task management of anesthesiologists. BACKGROUND: Recent research has shown physiological monitoring and multitasking performance can benefit from displaying patient data via alarm-like tactile notifications and via continuously informing auditory displays (e.g., sonifications). The current study investigated a novel combination of these two approaches: continuously informing tactile displays. METHOD: A tactile alarm and two continuously informing tactile display designs were evaluated in an anesthesia induction simulation with anesthesiologists as participants. Several performance measures were collected for two tasks: physiological monitoring and anesthesia induction. A multitask performance score equivalently weighted components from each task, normalized across experimental scenarios. Subjective rankings of the displays were also collected. RESULTS: Compared to the baseline (visual and auditory only) display configuration, each tactile display significantly improved performance in several objective measures, including multitask performance score. The continuously informing display that encoded the severity of patient health into the salience of its signals supported significantly better performance than the other two tactile displays. Contrasting the objective results, participants subjectively ranked the tactile alarm display highest. CONCLUSION: Continuously informing tactile displays with alarm-like properties (e.g., salience mapping) can better support anesthesiologists' physiological monitoring and multitasking performance under the high task demands of anesthesia induction. Adaptive display mechanisms may improve user acceptance. APPLICATION: This study can inform display design to support multitasking performance of anesthesiologists in the clinical setting and other supervisory control operators in work domains characterized by high demands for visual and auditory resources.

altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • Ferris, T. K., & Sarter, N.

citation count

  • 50

publication date

  • November 2011