A Laboratory Comparison of Clockwise and Counter-Clockwise Rapidly Rotating Shift Schedules, Part II: Performance: Final Report
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A Laboratory Comparison of Clockwise and Counter-Clockwise Rapidly Rotating Shift Schedules, Part II: Performance: Final Report

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      A laboratory comparison of clockwise and counter-clockwise rapidly rotating shift schedules, part II : performance.
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      INTRODUCTION. Many Air Traffic Control Specialists (ATCSs) work a relatively unique counter-clockwise, rapidly rotating shift schedule. Although arguments against these kinds of schedules are prevalent in the literature, few studies have examined rotating shifts such as those seen with ATCSs. The present study directly compared clockwise and counter-clockwise rapidly rotating shiftwork schedules on measures of complex task performance from the Multiple Task Performance Battery (MTPB) and vigilance from the Bakan Vigilance Task. METHODS. Participants (n=28) worked day shifts for the first week of the study (0800-1600), followed by two weeks of either a clockwise (n = 14) or counter-clockwise (n = 14) shiftwork schedule. Participants completed three 1.5-hour sessions on the MTPB on each shift following the first day of training. Each session contained low, medium, and high workload periods, as well as active- and passive-task components. In addition, participants completed a .5-hour Bakan Vigilance Test at the beginning and end of each shift. RESULTS. There were no group differences in the overall or passive task composite scores for the MTPB. Instead, a shift by session interaction, F (8, 19) = 5.2, p = .001, indicated that performance was maintained across the afternoon shifts, was lower at the end of the early morning shifts, but fell by a much greater margin at the end of the midnight shift. Results for the active task composite scores indicated a 3-way interaction between week, shift, and rotation condition, F (4, 23) = 4.7, p = .006. This complex relationship indicated that performance was consistently higher in the counter-clockwise rotation and was less variable across shifts than in the clockwise rotation. Results of the Bakan Vigilance Task revealed a significant Rotation Condition by Shift interaction, F (4, 23) = 6.2, p = .001. While the counter-clockwise group appeared to perform consistently better than the clockwise group across all shifts, results of the simple effects analyses indicated a significant difference only on the first afternoon shift. DISCUSSION. These data do not support the hypothesis that a clockwise rotation will result in better outcomes on complex or vigilance task performance. In fact, performance in the two groups was generally equivalent, with a few exceptions in which the counter-clockwise group performed better. The empirical evidence gained from this study suggest that particular shifts, such as early morning and midnight shifts, may adversely affect sleep and performance more than the direction of shift rotation.
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