Principal Investigators

Prof. Dr. Jochem Rieger

Applied Neurocognitive Psychology



Prof. Dr. Axel Hahn

System analysis and optimization


E1 Cognitive Demands in Power Grid and Maritime Traffic Control

The vulnerability of highly integrated power grids was demonstrated by the 2006 European blackout which was likely caused by a routine disconnection of a powerline in northwestern Germany and spread within less than an hour to several European countries affecting approximately 10-15 mllion people. In the aftermath Bialek (2007) concluded that a new mode of coordinated operation for real-time security assessment and control is needed in order to maintain system security but that this will require overcoming a number of organisational, psychological, legal and technical challenges.

In the maritime domain, similar to power grid control, human experts in Vessel Traffic Services (VTS-) Centers are responsible for safe and smooth vessel traffic in a circumscribed area with high traffic, e.g. a waterway or the entrance to a port. The expert operators monitor vessel traffic and try to detect and resolve potentially safety critical situations locally and optimize traffic throughput. In order to accomplish these goals, the operators in VTS-Center must integrate large amounts of data from different local sensors as well as information about future development, e.g. of the weather, approaching ships etc..

Cognitive psychologists investigated effects of expertise mostly in the fields of problem solving, planning and decision making. This research revealed that experts developed through extensive practice or training efficient domain specific information processing and decision-making capabilities

One objective of this project is to better understand expert performance in these settings and to obtain predictors for critical operator states that imply increased likelihood of operator failures induced by cognitive overload, inefficient communication of information by system and reduced acceptance of support system. Moreover, it is desirable to have quantitative models of expert human operators that allow the prediction of operator performance. Therefore, our second objective is to develop models of expert human operators that can support the development and testing of support systems and predict cognitive states of human operator controlling power grids and ship traffic at different levels of expertise. In addition, such quantitative models can guide the formulation of psychological theories of the cognitive processes relevant for efficient system operation by humans.

(Stand: 21.08.2020)