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The effect of mental workload on the visual field size and shape

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Mental workload is known to reduce the area of one's visual field, but little is known about its effects on the shape of the visual field. Considering this, the visual fields of 13 subjects were measured concurrently under three levels of mental workload using a Goldmann visual perimeter. Tone counting tasks were employed to induce mental workload, avoiding interference with visual performance. Various methods of shape measurement and analysis were used to investigate the variation of the shape of the visual field as a function of mental load. As expected, the mean area of visual fields reduced to 92.2% in the medium workload condition and to 86.41% under heavy workload, compared to light load condition. This tunnelling effect was not uniform, but resulted in statistically significant shape distortion as well, as measured by the majority of the 12 shape indices used here. These results have visual performance implications in many tasks that are susceptible to changes in visual fields and peripheral vision. Knowledge of the dynamics of the visual field as a function of mental workload can offer significant advantages also in mathematical modelling of visual search.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1999

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