Cognitive complexity is a term that appears frequently in air traffic control research literature, yet there has not been a significant distinction between different components of complexity, such as environmental, organizational, and display complexity, all which influence cognitive complexity. It is not well understood if and how these different sources of complexity add to controller cognitive complexity and workload. In order to address this need for complexity decomposition and deconstruction, an experiment was conducted to explore whether or not different components of complexity could be effectively measured and compared. The goal of the experiment was to quantify whether or not structure in airspace sector design, in combination with changes in the external airspace environment, added to or mitigated perceived complexity measured through performance. The results demonstrate that for a representative ATC task, the dynamic environment complexity source was a significant contributor to performance, causing lower performance scores. There was no apparent effect, either positive or negative, from increasing airspace structure represented through a display.
Cummings, M. L.,
Tsonis, C. G.,
& Cunha, D. C.
(2005). Complexity Mitigation Through Airspace Structure. 2005 International Symposium on Aviation Psychology, 159-163.