The Impact of Cognitive, Physical, and Psychological Stressors on Subsequent Cognitive Performance

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OBJECTIVE: To quantify the impact of performing challenging cognitive, physical and psychological tasks on subsequent cognitive performance, and whether differences in performance are predicted by psychological variables.

BACKGROUND: Successful performance in many occupations depends on resilient cognition: the degree to which cognitive functions can withstand, or are resilient to, the effects of stress. Several studies have examined the effect of individual stressors on cognition; however, the capacity to compare different types of stress across studies is limited.

METHOD: Fifty-eight participants completed cognitive, physical, psychological and control interventions, immediately preceded, and followed, by a battery of cognitive tasks. Self-efficacy and cognitive appraisal were reported at baseline. Perceived stress was recorded post-intervention. Subjective workload was recorded for each cognitive battery and intervention.

RESULTS: Cognitive performance was impaired by the cognitive, physical and psychological interventions, with the greatest effect following the cognitive intervention. The subjective workload reported for the post-intervention cognitive battery was higher following the cognitive and physical interventions. Neither self-efficacy, cognitive appraisal, perceived stress nor subjective workload of the intervention strongly predicted post-intervention performance.

CONCLUSION: Given the differences among interventions and cognitive domains, it appears that challenges to resilient cognition are broad and varied, and the mechanism(s) by which impairment occurs is complex.

APPLICATION: Considering the increase in subjective workload for the post-intervention cognitive battery, a combination of subjective and objective measures of cognitive performance monitoring should be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Factors
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Dec 2021


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