Cognitive Ergonomics of Design: Exploring the Utility of Wearable Devices to Assess Designers' Cognitive State

J. Menold, C. McComb, and T. Brick

2019, ASME 2019 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference

Design problems are marked by complexity, unknowns, and shifting requirement sets. Design itself is often taken to be a high-level cognitive ability. To date, little research has characterized the cognitive ergonomics of design. This paper is motivated to evaluate new wearable passive ambulatory assessment devices and their ability to provide design researchers with insights regarding the cognitive ergonomics of design. Empatica E4 devices were used in a controlled design experiment to assess the stress of designers in two conditions of a prototyping task (physical vs digital). Results indicate that wearable passive ambulatory measurement devices can distinguish between stress and non-stress states during design experiments, without significantly interfering with the design activity. Opportunities and challenges for future research integrating such tools are discussed.