Modeling the cardiac indices of stress and performance of nuclear power plant operators during simulated fault scenarios

Satu Pakarinen (Corresponding Author), Jussi Korpela, Hannu Karvonen, Jari Laarni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Acute stress can affect cognitive processing and decrease performance in demanding, stressful situations. Here, we recorded the cardiac indices of stress, that is, the heart rate and heart rate variability together with the physical activity of nuclear power plant operators, and examined their association with crew performance, while the operator crews were managing simulated incident and accident situations. Crew performance was evaluated both by the operator instructor and as the time taken to resolve the situation. In total, 64% of the variance in the information-seeking performance (adj-R 2 =.64, p <.01), and 41% of variation in the performance time (adj-R 2 =.41, p <.01) were explained by the psychophysiology. The cardiac measures indicated that increased stress was associated with poorer information-seeking performance and longer performance time. Increased physical activity was associated with poorer information seeking only. Otherwise, crew performance was robust, as the diagnosis and corrective actions, use of emergency operations procedures, and collaboration, were only weakly associated with the stress physiology. The association between information-seeking performance and stress might be explained by the larger requirement for cognitive processing at the information-gathering phase of the task. The results of the study show that psychophysiological measurements of stress and activity can provide valuable information on stress and its association with cognitive performance at work.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13513
Issue number4
Early online date11 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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