Neuroergonomics - an objective way to measure your people

Back when I was studying my undergraduate degree some 20 years ago, I recall being introduced to personality testing. I quickly realised that within a short period of time, my personality type could be influenced by what frame of mind I was in at the time.

I also remember seeing the Stroop test which is a visual test of selective attention whereby you determine the font colours of words that are saying different colours – for example read out the font colours for BLUE RED GREEN. It is quite a difficult task to do and results in an increased time to say the font colours out loud – unless you deliberately blur your vision then there is no increase of reading time experienced.

So, when people behave in certain ways, I am always keen to know what were they thinking and why did they do things in a certain way. The problem is that whilst the tools of safety and risk have changed over the years, it becomes heavily reliant on qualitative data – personal testimony or observational / experiential acquisition of behaviour. Even when data becomes quantitative, in some cases the way this data has been treated is questionable. Currently Psychology is going through a replication crisis, in that much of research and conclusions drawn cannot be replicated. This is nothing new -  Chemistry, Biology, Physics, medicine and environment science have all suffered from this at some point.

So why am I telling you this? Through our Research and Development programme, HFEx has increased its capability into fourth field of Ergonomics (sounds much like the fourth dimension, doesn’t it?).

Most people know of the physical ergonomics - which a lot of people believe relate to just desks and chairs. Some know of cognitive ergonomics associated with decision making, workload and situational awareness. A few know of organisational ergonomics, associated with systems, processes, resilience and business continuity. But now we see the emergence of neuroergonomics – I say emergence but it has been around for 10 years now.

Neuroergonomics goes beyond the cognition and looks at the biological predecessors to our thoughts focusing on the central nervous system. With technological advancement and the right set of skills, it is becoming possible to apply this to real-world tasks. No longer are we restricted to unwieldy measuring devices of neural activity. Everything is miniaturised, accessible, wearable and appropriately position to tackle the biggest concerns about scientific replicability.

HFEx recently trialled some of this equipment whilst conducting fatigue risk management work for a customer. It confirmed that people’s self-assessment of how fatigued and sleepy is often underestimated. Whilst we are happy with the outcome, it raises concern of what other self-assessments people make that are inaccurate. The good thing about neuroergonomics is it cannot lie, it cannot underestimate (or overestimate) and in some cases truly highlights what people were thinking or why they behaved the way they did.

If you have any comments or would like to know more, please email us at info@hfex.co.nz. We would love to hear from you. ​​