Subjective Alertness

The most common method of measuring alertness is to ask subjects how they feel, often employing a checklist of adjectives or paired adjectives (e.g., sleepy-awake, anxious-relaxed, and lethargic-energetic). The problem with this approach is that subjective measures do not always correspond to performance measures, such as measures of reaction time or problem-solving tasks. This may be because the relationship between alertness and performance is not necessarily linear (see Section I.A). Alternatively, it may be because the performance measures commonly used do not measure alertness directly but another function, such as vigilance. Finally, it could be because responses to such adjective checklists are contaminated by arousal level and therefore they are not good indicators of alertness. Whatever the difficulty, it is clear that resorting to adjective checklists is less than satisfactory.

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