Compensatory Control and the Effort Monitor

The significant body of research into human performance has suggested that a process of compensatory control optimises our task performance. That is to say, the allocation of our resources, and in particular our cognitive resources, is managed in response to task demands. Two mechanisms have been put forward as critical to this process of compensatory control. First, an effort monitor automatically assesses the level of effort we are having to exert in maintaining task performance. Second, a supervisory controller responds to the output of the effort monitor and implements different modes of performance-cost trade-off.9 Thankfully, these processes are largely automatic in nature! However, what is meant by the performance-cost trade-off is that each task is examined, the elements of the task that have the greatest importance to maintaining safe performance are focussed on, and tasks that have a low cost in terms of potential risk are delayed or abandoned. That is to say, we end up focussing on the critical elements of the task at the expense of less important activities.

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