The theme of this chapter is stress and workload regulation and the relationships among work demands, well-being, and performance. The task and personal factors, such as controllability and coping, that may influence those relationships are discussed. It is argued that a multimeasurement approach is necessary to understand fully the nature of stress and its effects in terms of performance and safety in cognitively demanding work such as air-traffic control, process control, and medical monitoring. Some preliminary data are presented from a two-part study of air-traffic controllers that investigated the influence of naturally occurring workload on performance and psychological and physiological state.Lazarus (1991), among others, has suggested that to understand stress in the workplace individual patterns of response to various working conditions need to be studied, rather than simply attempting to identify adverse conditions of work. In other words, even if it were possible to identify all potential sources of stress in the workplace, this would not allow the confident prediction of the effects of these stressors on individual performance and well-being. A more detailed understanding is needed of the cognitive control processes that govern individual responses to different work demands. It is argued that individuals in many jobs, particularly those involving high levels of cognitive demands, may be able to exert some degree of control over their work to deal with perceived demands. Furthermore, individuals may differ in the extent to which they use different strategies in applying control activity. They may be used to prevent either negative psychological states or decrements in work performance in difficult or demanding situations (Hockey, 1986;Hockey, Briner, Tattersall, & Wiethoff, 1989;. General patterns of response-in terms of costs or benefits to the individual and organization related to performance, well-being, and health-are therefore likely to be difficult to predict. This is especially so, given the evidence that strain may be manifested in a number of different ways depending on the nature of the task and the individual (e.g., Broadbent, 1985;Frankenhaeuser, 1986;Hockey, 1986). In other words, differences in preferred styles of behavior and use of short-term strategies to deal with work demands may result in a variety of changes in performance, affective state, and psychophysiological activity.
Performance on a complex, four-choice, psychomotor task was measured both under self-paced conditions and under various levels of time constraint. Superior performance was produced by moderate reduction, relative to a self-paced baseline, of the time available for task completion, but this effect was exhibited only by subjects high in neuroticism. No contribution of introversion-extraversion could be demonstrated. Although cardiac acceleration was evident under some levels of constraint, the results cannot wholly be attributed to changes in arousal.
An experiment was conducted to investigate the claim that human performance may be enhanced by exposure to artificially high concentrations of negative air ions. 16 subjects, only half of whom were informed of the ion level in each session, performed reasoning, psychomotor, and memory-search tasks. Despite adequate control of confounding variables, no clear evidence was obtained in support of the view that negative ions in the air influence performance.
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