Optimizing the usage of pupillary based indicators for cognitive workload
The Index of Cognitive Activity (ICA) and its open-source alternative, the Index of Pupillary Activity (IPA), are pupillary-based indicators for cognitive workload and are independent of light changes. Both indicators were investigated regarding influences of cognitive demand, fatigue and inter-individual differences. In addition, the variability of pupil changes between both eyes (difference values) were compared with the usually calculated pupillary changes averaged over both eyes (mean values). Fifty-five participants performed a spatial thinking test, the R-Cube-Vis Test, with six distinct difficulty levels and a simple fixation task before and after the R-Cube-Vis Test. The distributions of the ICA and IPA were comparable. The ICA/IPA values were lower during the simple fixation tasks than during the cognitively demanding R-Cube-Vis Test. A fatigue effect was found only for the mean ICA values. The effects of both indicators were larger between difficulty levels of the test when inter-individual differences were controlled using z-standardization. The difference values seemed to control for fatigue and appeared to differentiate better between more demanding cognitive tasks than the mean values. The derived recommendations for the ICA/IPA values are beneficial to gain more insights in individual performance and behavior during, e.g., training and testing scenarios.
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