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Quantifying the Physiological Stress Response to Simulated Maritime Pilotage Tasks: The Influence of Task Complexity and Pilot Experience

Main, Luana C. PhD; Wolkow, Alexander PhD; Chambers, Timothy P. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: November 2017 - Volume 59 - Issue 11 - p 1078–1083
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001161
Original Articles

Objective: The aim of this study was to quantify the stress associated with performing maritime pilotage tasks in a high-fidelity simulator.

Methods: Eight trainee and 13 maritime pilots completed two simulated pilotage tasks of varying complexity. Salivary cortisol samples were collected pre- and post-simulation for both trials. Heart rate was measured continuously throughout the study.

Results: Significant changes in salivary cortisol (P = 0.000, η2 = 0.139), average (P = 0.006, η2 = 0.087), and peak heart rate (P = 0.013, η2 = 0.077) from pre- to postsimulation were found. Varying task complexity did partially influence stress response; average (P = 0.016, η2 = 0.026) and peak heart rate (P = 0.034, η2 = 0.020) were higher in the experimental condition. Trainees also recorded higher average (P = 0.000, η2 = 0.054) and peak heart rates (P = 0.027, η2 = 0.022).

Conclusion: Performing simulated pilotage tasks evoked a measurable stress response in both trainee and expert maritime pilots.

Deakin University, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Geelong, Victoria, Australia (Dr Main); NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence, School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (Dr Wolkow); and Australian College of Applied Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (Dr Chambers).

Address correspondence to: Dr. Timothy P. Chambers, PhD, Australian College of Applied Psychology, School of Psychological Sciences, Level 10, 123 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 3000 VIC, Australia (

The authors have not reported any conflicts of interest.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

Copyright © 2017 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine