Human-Systems Integration (HSI) and the Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs), Part 3: Mitigating Cognitive Load in Network-Enabled Mission Command

Report No. ARL-TR-7698
Authors: John K Hawley; Michael W Swehla
Date/Pages: June 2016; 48 pages
Abstract: This report is the third in a series discussing Human-Systems Integration (HSI) within the context of the Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs). The focus of this report is concrete actions for mitigating cognitive load in network-enabled mission command. Cognitive load is defined as the aggregate mental load placed on battle-staff personnel by a complex mission command work setting. NIE results suggest there are 3 primary contributors to excessive cognitive load in NIE command posts: 1) component ergonomics, 2) integration deficiencies, and 3) training. These factors combine and act to increase the aggregate level of perceived complexity and cognitive load for the battle staff. The mission command role is intrinsically complex and demanding. However, a work setting with a large number of design-related "rough edges" along with integration problems will give the impression of being more complex and intimidating than one that has been better designed and integrated. While some of the cognitive load associated with mission command in NIE command posts is intrinsic to role, high levels of extraneous cognitive load are needless consequences of insufficient attention to HSI in component design and integration coupled with inadequate training for both individual system users and for battle staffs functioning as a team.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: June 1, 2016