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Can working as part of a team reduce fatigue?

Fatigued woman

It is common knowledge that fatigue makes it harder to think clearly, solve problems and make rational decisions, but being tired has more serious implications

Daniel Frings, Associate Professor in Psychology at LSBU is currently researching whether or not being part of a group can help offset the effects of fatigue without the need for potentially harmful stimulants.

Serious dangers

Fatigue severely impairs our cognitive functions. Because of this there are serious dangers surrounding those in the medical and transportation professions who are often required to perform vital tasks, often with very little or no sleep.

"Up to 2/3rds of people who carry out these jobs make serious mistakes when tired. Fatigue is linked to misdiagnosis in hospitals and also to a variety of major maritime accidents when crews have not had enough sleep," says Frings.

Traditionally, ways of trying to counter fatigue have been around re-working shift patterns and the use of naps. However, little work has been done on looking at the social processes involved and what affect these have on group concentration.

Group monitoring

Frings's research has been in testing the effects of group monitoring on fatigued individuals during a series of vigilance, decision making and problem solving tasks. Working with the often fatigued officer cadets at the London Officer Training Corp, Daniel monitored both individual judgement and collective group decisions whilst the team carried out various tests.

For instance, participants solved a series of mathematical problem solving tasks while fatigued or alert, working either alone or in groups. On later problems, fatigued individuals relied on tried and tested, but often inefficient, solutions. In contrast, groups were not impaired by fatigue.

"Tired groups seem to be performing just as well, and just as creatively, as non-tired groups and individuals during these tasks."

High class research

Further activities are due to be carried out once all data collection and analysis has been completed. Daniel predicts that fatigue will impair individuals on a variety of cognitive tasks commonly encountered by fatigued workers. He also predicts that being a member of a group will significantly reduce these effects and that group cooperation will further negate the effects of tiredness."As academics working in an active research community it is really important to work with organisations outside the University in order to build successful collaborative links. These partnerships show that we are doing high class research that is having an impact on industry and society, not to mention our teaching and the next generation of professionals. When I give a lecture I know that my students are getting the most up to date research, and for me, that is vital."

 
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