The function of collateral activities in work. Application of this concept to individual differences in children and to the schoolwork context
Travail Humain 59(4): 383-387
The object of this thesis is to demonstrate the function of collateral activities such as people's gestures while working when they do not interfere with the work. Such activities include nail biting, sign language, etc. Past research suggests that these activities are unconscious, modified by the human and environmental context, and without any role in regard to the main task being performed. Their function has still to be proved. The present research studies their role in children both in school and in experimental situations. The experimental paradigms used were solving anagrams and simple reaction time. The former has permitted us to understand the relationship between the level of task difficulty and induced behavior. The latter has shown the connections between the attention level and the expression of this same behavior. The simultaneous study of heart rate assisted the analysis. Children's metacognitive state has also been considered as an independent variable. The results do not prove that collateral activities are of direct importance in the cognitive process used by children. On the other hand they measure these activities reliably and reveal children's attention and metacognition level. These results also reveal the existence of two catalogues - one corresponding to sign language and gestures centered on oneself, the other to the movements of the body. Each of those catalogues expresses different levels in the cognitive investment of the subject while executing the task. As a conclusions collateral activities are a new tool for ergonomists which permits them to bring to the fore the notion of regulation of attention and the notion of affective stakes in the achievement of a very demanding mental task.