Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview

Section Seven FATIGUE, MONOTONY, AND WORKING CONDITIONS

Introduction

THIS SECTION deals with an area that some writers have called "human efficiency." The term "efficiency" is typically expressed as the ratio of output to input. Thus a machine that requires 50 units of electric power to produce 25 units of work is more efficient than one which requires 100 units of electric power to produce the same 25 units. With human work it is usually easy to note the output side, but very difficult to measure input. The fact that employees in two departments are producing about the same, tells us nothing about their "efficiency," since those in one department may be expending more energy. This may be determined by physiological measures of metabolic functions such as heart and pulse rate, amount of oxygen consumed, blood pressure changes, etc. during work. There are many studies which show that different types of work and different methods of performing the same job require different amounts of energy. Similarly, different kinds of working conditions, (e.g., levels of noise, illumination, ventilation) will influence energy expenditure. Of course, it is very difficult to obtain such measures of energy input on the job. Furthermore, humans show psychological "costs" (e.g., feelings of tension, effort, and tiredness). The important thing is that these subjective feelings may be present with or without changes in the physiological measurements obtained. The overt physical effort of reading a novel and reading a text are much the same, but one is "hard work" while the other is not "work at all." And, as yet, there are no good procedures for evaluating such "psychological" costs.

A further complication is that actual output may have little relation to either physiological cost measurements or reported feelings of tiredness. Important factors here are those of motivation and attitude. If motivation is high, performance may continue to be high in the face of extraordinary physiological and psychological costs.

For these and other reasons, there has been a shift away from the tra-

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