The goal of this study was to test the effect of mental workload on handwriting behavior and to identify characteristics of low versus high mental workload in handwriting. We hypothesized differences between handwriting under three different load conditions and tried to establish a profile that integrated these indicators. Fifty-six participants wrote three numerical progressions of varying difficulty on a digitizer attached to a computer so that we could evaluate their handwriting behavior. Differences were found in temporal, spatial, and angular velocity handwriting measures, but no significant differences were found for pressure measures. Using data reduction, we identified three clusters of handwriting, two of which differentiated well according to the three mental workload conditions. We concluded that handwriting behavior is affected by mental workload and that each measure provides distinct information, so that they present a comprehensive indicator of mental workload.

Published in: Behavioural Research Methods, 2012,  44, 575-586.