Manpower and Personnel Integration (MANPRINT) and Network Integration Evaluation 13.2:Observations on Cognitive Load in Mission Command

Report No. ARL-TR-6848
Authors: John K. Hawley
Date/Pages: March 2014; 32 pages
Abstract: Cognitive load refers to the aggregate mental load placed on multi-echelon commanders and staff members by an increasingly complex command post (CP) work setting. The primary Manpower and Personnel Integration (MANPRINT) objective during Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 13.2 was to determine whether CP personnel perceive cognitive load to be a problem. NIE results indicated that cognitive load is an issue at some levels of command and for some staff members. The command echelon that appeared to be most impacted by excessive cognitive load is the company level. CP equipment suites provide considerable information that must be processed, assimilated, and acted upon by command and staff personnel. The term most often used by CP personnel to describe cognitive load is "information overload." At the battalion level, the staff member that appeared to be most impacted by excessive information processing requirements and resulting cognitive load is the battle captain. The battle captain is the integrating and coordinating agent for information flowing into and out of the battalion CP. The primary drivers of excessive cognitive load are (1) component ergonomic deficiencies, (2) poor integration of the individual items forming the CP, and (3) inadequate training on individual systems and CP equipment suites.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: March 1, 2014