"You could have a Catch-22," Cummings said. "If you're high on conscientiousness, you might be good to watch a nuclear reactor, but whether these same people would be effective in such military settings is unclear."
The researchers are continuing experiments to see what conditions might best keep boredom at bay. For instance, regular gentle reminders might help people keep alert. The scientists also are looking into the best length for shifts and the best time of day to hold them.
"We need people who can monitor these systems and intervene, but that might not be very often," Cummings said.
The research might have larger implications, such as for operating automated vehicles like the Google Driverless Car.
"People are already bored when they're driving, and they're going to be really bored when automation drives the car," Cummings said.
The scientists detailed their findings Nov. 14. Their research will appear in the journal Interacting with Computers.
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