skip to main content

Title: The Impact of Engineering Information Formats on Workers’ Cognitive Load in Working Memory Development
Owing to the increasing dynamics and complexity of construction tasks, workers often need to memorize a big amount of engineering information prior to the operations, such as spatial orientations and operational procedures. The working memory development, as a result, is critical to the performance and safety of many construction tasks. This study investigates how the format of engineering information affects human working memory based on a human-subject Virtual Reality (VR) experiment (n=90). A VR model was created to simulate a pipe maintenance task. First, participants were asked to review the task procedures in one of the following formats, including 2D isometric drawings, 3D model, and VR model. After the review session, participants were asked to perform the pipe maintenance task in the virtual environment based on their working memory. The operation accuracy and time were used as the key performance indicators of the working memory development. The experiment results indicate that the 3D and VR groups outperformed the 2D group in both operation accuracy and time, suggesting that a more immersive instruction leads to a better working memory. A further examination finds that the 2D group presented a significantly higher level of intrinsic cognitive load and extraneous cognitive load in more » the working memory development compared to the 3D and VR groups, indicating that different engineering information formats can cause different levels of cognitive load in working memory development, and ultimately affect the final performance. The findings are expected to inspire the design of intelligent information systems that adapt to the cognitive load of construction workers for improved working memory development. « less
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Construction Research Congress 2020
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Owing to the increasing complexity of construction tasks and operations performed in confined workplaces, workers rely progressively on working memory, i.e., the short-term and temporary storage of information pertaining to near future events, to ensure the seamless execution of construction tasks. Although literature has discovered a strong relationship between engineering information formats and the quality of working memory, there is still a clear theoretical disagreement on the implications of the complexity of engineering information in the development of working memory. This study addresses the knowledge gap with a human-subject experiment (n=60). Participants were required to review one of the twomore »instructions for a pipe maintenance task: a simple 2D isometric drawing with bulletins (2D-simple) and a complex 2D isometric drawing with rich text (2D-complex). After the review session, the participants were asked to perform the pipe maintenance task in a Virtual Reality (VR) environment. Collected data include participants’ task performance (accuracy and time), pupillary dilations and gaze movements. The results show that the 2D-simple group outperformed the 2D-complex group in terms of both accuracy and time. An attention pattern analysis using Approximate Entropy (ApEn) of gaze movements suggests that a higher ApEn in the vertical axis, i.e. a more irregular and complex gaze movement between instructions, may result in a more efficient use of working memory and thus contributes to a better performance. This study provides preliminary evidence regarding the impact of engineering information complexity on the working memory development of construction workers.« less
  2. In emergency events, first responders often have to build an accurate spatial working memory of unfamiliar spaces in a short time period. This study investigates the impact of information format on first responders’ short-term spatial memory of large-scale spaces via a human-subject experiment (n=63). A virtual model was created to simulate a real building on Texas A&M University campus. A total of 28 building components were modified in the virtual model. Participants were asked to review the virtual model with one of the three methods: 2D drawing, 3D model, and VR model. After the review session, the participants were sentmore »to the real building to identify the discrepancies, and accuracy was documented as the performance measure. The results reveal that the 3D and VR groups both significantly outperformed the 2D group in spatial working memory. This study sets the foundation to further understand how instructional information affects the performance of first responders in emergency response.« less
  3. Cognitive processes have been found to contribute substantially to the human errors that lead to construction accidents. Working memory—a cognitive system with a limited capacity that is responsible for temporarily holding information available for processing—plays an important role in reasoning and decision-making. Since eye movements indicate where a worker directs his/her attention, tracking such movements provides a practical way to measure workers’ attention and comprehension of construction hazards. As a departure in construction industry research, this study correlates attentional allocation with working memory to assess workers’ situation awareness under different scenarios that expose workers to various hazards. To achieve thismore »goal, this study merges research linking eye movements and workers’ attention with research focused on working-memory load and decision making and evaluates what, how, and where a worker distributes his/her attention while performing a task under different working-memory loads. Path analysis models then examined the direct and indirect effect of different working-memory loads on hazard identification performance. The independent variable (working-memory load) is linked to the dependent variable (hazard identification) through the set of mediators (attention metrics). The results showed that the high-memory load condition delayed workers’ hazard identification. The findings of this study emphasize the important role working memory plays in determining how and why workers in dynamic work environments fail to detect, comprehend, and/or respond to physical risks.« less
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an overwhelming strain on our Nation's ability to treat patients; the number of patients who need to be tested continues to rise. With nurses also becoming infected, the number of trained professionals who can perform tasks such as testing of patients along with providing care involving hooking up patients to ventilators continues to decrease as well. There is a need to explore the adoption of virtual computer based training mediums which will enable new nurses and others to be trained in safe and efficient procedures involving patients during this pandemic period. In this paper, themore »design of a VR based simulator based on Human Centered Computing (HCC) principles is discussed. The role of HCC factors such as affordance and cognitive load on the comprehension and scene understanding of nurses during training and the acquisition of knowledge of safety procedures and detailed steps (pertaining to nasal sample collection and use of ventilators on patients) has been studied with the involvement of nurse and nurse trainee participants. Adoption of a participatory design approach involving experts (nurses, doctors involved in covid-19 testing and treatment) has provided a foundational basis for design of the training environments and assessment activities. Formal information centric process models of the nasal swabbing procedures and ventilator hookup tasks were created using the engineering Enterprise Modeling Language (eEML). The preliminary results from the assessment activities indicate the positive impact of such HCC based 3Dsimulators in such training of first responders.« less
  5. The development of tools that promote active learning in engineering disciplines is critical. It is widely understood that students engaged in active learning environments outperform those taught using passive methods. Previously, we reported on the development and implementation of hands-on Low-Cost Desktop Learning Modules (LCDLMs) that replicate real-world industrial equipment which serves to create active learning environments. Thus far, miniaturized venturi meter, hydraulic loss, and double-pipe and shell & tube heat exchanger DLMs have been utilized by hundreds of students across the country. It was demonstrated that the use of DLMs in face-to-face classrooms results in statistically significant improvements inmore »student performance as well as increases in student motivation compared to students taught in a traditional lecture-only style classroom. Last year, participants in the project conducted 45 implementations including over 600 DLMs at 24 universities across the country reaching more than 1,000 students. In this project, we report on the significant progress made in broad dissemination of DLMs and accompanying pedagogy. We demonstrate that DLMs serve to increase student learning gains not only in face-to-face environments but also in virtual learning environments. Instructional videos were developed to aid in DLM-based learning during the COVID-19 pandemic when instructors were limited to virtual instruction. Preliminary results from this work show that students working with DLMs even in a virtual setting significantly outperform those taught without DLM-associated materials. Significant progress has also been made on the development of a new DLM cartridge: a see-through 3D-printed miniature fluidized bed. The new 3D printing methodology will allow for rapid prototyping and streamlined development of DLMs. A 3D-printed evaporative cooling tower DLM will also be developed in the coming year. In October 2020, the team held a virtual implementers workshop to train new participating faculty in DLM use and implementation. In total, 13 new faculty participants from 10 universities attended the 6-hour, 2-day workshop and plan to implement DLMs in their classrooms during this academic year. In the last year, this project was disseminated in 8 presentations at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Virtual Conference (June 2020) and American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Conference (November 2019) as well as the AIChE virtual Community of Practice Labs Group and a seminar at a major university, ultimately disseminating DLM pedagogy to approximately 200 individuals including approximately 120 university faculty. Further, the former group postdoc has accepted an instructor faculty position at University of Wisconsin Madison where she will teach unit operations among other subjects; she and the remainder of the team believe the LCDLM project has prepared her well for that position. In the remaining 2.5 years of the project, we will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of DLMs in teaching key heat transfer and fluid dynamics concepts thru implementations in the rapidly expanding pool of participating universities. Further, we continue our ongoing efforts in creating the robust support structure necessary for large-scale adoption of hands-on educational tools for promotion of hands-on interactive student learning.« less