Volume 17, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0921-5077
  • E-ISSN: 1875-7235


Mental fatigue and goal-oriented behaviour: effects of task context on behaviour guidance

Mental fatigue and goal-oriented behaviour: effects of task context on behaviour guidance

Dimitri van der Linden, Gedrag & Organisatie, Volume 17, August 2004, nr. 4, pp. 252-271.

As mental fatigue is related to performance and safety, it has received considerable interest from researchers in work psychology. Nevertheless, much is unknown about the specific way fatigue affects task behaviour and performance. In the current article we argue that fatigue affects behaviour through a decreased impact of conscious goals and behavioural rules on choice of actions. This would manifest itself as a diminished cognitive flexibility and as difficulties in executing or initiating planning. We present two experiments in which we investigate whether fatigue-induced participants show less flexibility and planning than non-fatigued participants. In experiment 1 (n = 65), participants had to explore a computer application unfamiliar to them. In experiment 2 (n = 58) participants worked on standard neuropsychological tests that assessed flexibility and planning. The results of both experiments showed that, compared to the non-fatigued participants, fatigue participants were less flexible and displayed less effective or less efficient planning. These results support the idea of decreased influence of conscious goals and rules under fatigue. This conclusion has practical implications for as it may support the prediction and prevention of fatigue-related errors and accidents.


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