Exploring the Peak-End Effects in Air Traffic Controllers’ Mental Workload Ratings

Han Qiao, Jingyu Zhang, Liang Zhang, Yazhe Li, Shayne Loft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study examined whether professional air traffic controllers (ATCos) were subject to peak-end effects in reporting their mental workload after performing an air traffic control task, and in predicting their mental workload in future scenarios. Background: In affective experience studies, people’s evaluation of a period of experience is strongly influenced by the most intense (peak) point and the endpoint. However, whether the effects exist in mental workload evaluations made by professional operators is still not known. Method: In Study 1, 20 ATCos performed air traffic control scenarios on high-fidelity radar simulators and reported their mental workload. We used a 2 (high peak, low peak) × 2 (high end, low end) within-subject design. In Study 2, another group of 43 ATCos completed a survey asking them to predict their mental workload given the same air traffic control scenarios. Results: In Study 1, ATCos reported higher mental workload after completing the high-peak and the high-end scenarios. In contrast, in Study 2, ATCos predicted the peak workload effect but not the end workload effect when asked to predict their experience in dealing with the same scenarios. Conclusion: Peak and end effects exist in subjective mental workload evaluation, but experts only had meta-cognitive awareness of the peak effect, and not the end effect. Application: Researchers and practitioners that use subjective workload estimates for work design decisions need to be aware of the potential impact of peak and end task demand effects on subjective mental workload ratings provided by expert operators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1292-1305
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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