Campus Units

Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Kinesiology, Human Computer Interaction, Virtual Reality Applications Center, Political Science

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making

First Page


Research Focus Area(s)

Ergonomics and Human Factors, ​Operations Research




Psychological and physiological stress experienced by astronauts can pose risks to mission success. In clinical settings, gradually increasing stressors help patients develop resilience. It is unclear whether graduated stress exposure can affect responses to acute stressors during spaceflight. This study evaluated psychophysiological responses to potentially catastrophic spaceflight operation, with and without graduated stress exposure, using a virtual reality environment. Twenty healthy participants were tasked with locating a fire on a virtual International Space Station (VR-ISS). After orientation, the treatment group (n = 10) practiced searching for a fire while exposed to a low-level stressor (light smoke), while the control group (n = 10) practiced without smoke. In the testing session, both groups responded to a fire while the VR-ISS unexpectedly filled with heavy smoke. Heart rate variability and blood pressure were measured continuously. Subjective workload was evaluated with the NASA Task Load Index, stress with the Short Stress State Questionnaire, and stress exposure with time-to-complete. During the heavy smoke condition, the control group showed parasympathetic withdrawal, indicating a mild stress response. The treatment group retained parasympathetic control. Thus, graduated stress exposure may enhance allostasis and relaxation behavior when confronted with a subsequent stressful condition.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Finseth, Tor T., Nir Keren, Michael C. Dorneich, Warren D. Franke, Clayton C. Anderson, and Mack C. Shelley. "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Graduated Stress Exposure in Virtual Spaceflight Hazard Training." Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making (2018): 1555343418775561. DOI: 10.1177/1555343418775561. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society



File Format


Available for download on Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Published Version