Why the stability-flexibility-dilemma should be taken into consideration when studying pilots multitasking behaviour

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Sophie-Marie StaschWolfgang Mack

Abstract: The ability to execute multiple flight tasks simultaneously is a basic requirement for safe aircraft operation. To the present time, there is no consensus about the degree to which simultaneous task execution is actually possible without performance decrements. The flexibility perspective on multitasking explains how cognitive control enables task sets to be flexibly activated and shielded from interference. However, cognitive control is subject to the stability-flexibility dilemma. This dilemma describes the conflicting demands on cognitive control that influence goal-directed behaviour in multitasking situations. On the one hand, cognitive stability has the advantage of minimizing task interference, while not facilitating flexible goal updating. On the other hand, cognitive flexibility allows for constant background monitoring and facilitates task switching. In addition, it has been demonstrated that overlearned action sequences reduce multitasking costs, but are also accompanied by mitigated behavioural flexibility. However, behavioural flexibility is particularly necessary in novel and complex flight scenarios to ensure a pilot’s rapid operational readiness. This issue raises two questions: How does the stability-flexibility-dilemma affect multitasking performance in flight environments? And which control mode is strategically beneficial in which flight scenarios? To answer these questions, the cognitive control mode of 34 subjects was experimentally manipulated in a multitasking flight environment. A gamification method shifted the participants control mode in a more stable and more flexible control mode respectively. Results show not only differences in the performance of the individual flight tasks, but also in the subjective workload and various eye tracking metrics. The latter could be taken into account by a cognitive assistance system to detect the control mode of pilots in real time. It enables appropriate assistance to be provided, taking into account the control mode and situational demands. Ultimately, this leads to the provision of situation-specific assistance with the potential to enhance the overall safety in the cockpit.

Keywords: MATB, Eye, tracking, cognitive control, pilots, cognitive assistance systems, workload

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003846

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