A Broader Application of the Detection Response Task to Cognitive Tasks and Online Environments

Reilly J. Innes, Nathan J. Evans, Zachary L. Howard, Ami Eidels, Scott D. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Web of Science)


Objective: The present research applied a well-established measure of cognitive workload in driving literature to an in-lab paradigm. We then extended this by comparing the in-lab version of the task to an online version. Background: The accurate and objective measurement of cognitive workload is important in many aspects of psychological research. The detection response task (DRT) is a well-validated method for measuring cognitive workload that has been used extensively in applied tasks, for example, to investigate the effects of phone usage or passenger conversation on driving, but has been used sparingly outside of this field. Method: The study investigated whether the DRT could be used to measure cognitive workload in tasks more commonly used in experimental cognitive psychology and whether this application could be extended to online environments. We had participants perform a multiple object tracking (MOT) task while simultaneously performing a DRT. We manipulated the cognitive load of the MOT task by changing the number of dots to be tracked. Results: Measurements from the DRT were sensitive to changes in the cognitive load, establishing the efficacy of the DRT for experimental cognitive tasks in lab-based situations. This sensitivity continued when applied to an online environment (our code for the online DRT implementation is freely available at https://osf.io/dc39s/), though to a reduced extent compared to the in-lab situation. Conclusion: The MOT task provides an effective manipulation of cognitive workload. The DRT is sensitive to changes in workload across a range of settings and is suitable to use outside of driving scenarios, as well as via online delivery. Application: Methodology shows how the DRT could be used to measure sources of cognitive workload in a range of human factors contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)896-909
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number5
Early online date4 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'A Broader Application of the Detection Response Task to Cognitive Tasks and Online Environments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this