Ultra-Short Window Length and Feature Importance Analysis for Cognitive Load Detection from Wearable Sensors

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Human cognitive capabilities are under constant pressure in the modern information society. Cognitive load detection would be beneficial in several applications of human–computer interaction, including attention management and user interface adaptation. However, current research into accurate and real-time biosignal-based cognitive load detection lacks understanding of the optimal and minimal window length in data segmentation which would allow for more timely, continuous state detection. This study presents a comparative analysis of ultra-short (30 s or less) window lengths in cognitive load detection with a wearable device. Heart rate, heart rate variability, galvanic skin response, and skin temperature features are extracted at six different window lengths and used to train an Extreme Gradient Boosting classifier to detect between cognitive load and rest. A 25 s window showed the highest accury (67.6%), which is similar to earlier studies using the same dataset. Overall, model accuracy tended to decrease as the window length decreased, and lowest performance (60.0%) was observed with a 5 s window. The contribution of different physiological features to the classification performance and the most useful features that react in short windows are also discussed. The analysis provides a promising basis for future real-time applications with wearable sensors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number613
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • machine learning
  • affective computing
  • cognitive load
  • psychophysiology
  • supervised learning


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