The impact of cognitive load on kayaking and kayaking on cognitive performance

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Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


Objective: We examined the impact of performing a cognitive task of varying loads and kayaking simultaneously, compared to performance on the same tasks individually. Background: When two tasks are performed together, performance often suffers compared to performance on either task alone. Interference not only occurs in competing cognitive tasks, but has also been found with certain physically demanding activities, such as climbing. Method: Skilled kayakers performed a kayak course on open water, performed a high and a low cognitive load tone counting task, and also performed the kayak and counting tasks simultaneously. Results: Despite some past research finding dual task facilitation with laboratory aerobic activities, simultaneous kayaking and tone counting led to dual-task interference. Conclusion: Concurrent counting and kayaking led to performance impairments in both tasks, relative to single task performance. Application: The present results are applicable to occupations involving concurrent demanding physical activity and cognitive task performance, such as the work of first responders and military operators. Précis: Kayaking, like climbing, appears to hinder cognitive performance more than the low-risk physical tasks carried out in laboratory conditions.

Publication Title

Applied Ergonomics