Richard Backs, Ph.D.
  • Position: Experimental Faculty, Director of Center for Driving Evaluation, Education, and Research
  • Department: Psychology
  • Campus Address: Health Professions 2180, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
  • Email:
  • Vitae: Curriculum vitae




Richard W. Backs received his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Southern California in 1984. He has previously held appointments at Occidental College, Washington University, the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, and Wright State University, conducting research in Human Factors Engineering. He has been at Central Michigan University since 1995.

Research Interest:

My research is an area I define as the psychophysiology of attention in human performance. It emphasizes the applied aspects of attention theory, and my recent studies have examined autonomic (electrocardiographic, impedance cardiographic, and pulmonary) and central (EEG and event-related potential) measures concurrently during focused and divided attention tasks in the laboratory and in the driving simulator. I have adopted a cognitive/energetic perspective to account for how cognition is affected by factors such as emotion and environmental and task stressors. I am also interested in how aging affects the psychophysiology of attention, especially during driving.


Recent Research:

Domeyer J.E., Cassavaugh N.D., & Backs R.W. (in press). The use of adaptation to reduce simulator sickness in driving assessment and research. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 

​Backs, R.W., Lenneman, J.K., & Cassavaugh, N.D. (2012). Cardiovascular measures in human factors/ergonomics. In R.A. Wright, & G.H.E. Gendolla (Eds.), How motivation affects cardiovascular response: Mechanisms and applications (pp. 365-382). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association Books. 

Oliver, M. L., Nigg, J.T., Cassavaugh, N. D., & Backs, R. W.  (2012). Behavioral and cardiovascular responses to frustration during simulated driving tasks in young adults with and without attention disorder symptoms. Journal of Attention Disorders, 16, 478-490.  doi 10.1177/1087054710397132.

Cassavaugh, N.D., Domeyer, J.E., & Backs, R.W. (2011). Lessons learned regarding simulator sickness in older adult drivers. In C. Stephanidis (Ed.), Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction: Context Diversity, LNCS 6767 (pp. 263-269). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Musser, E.D, Backs, R.W., Schmitt, C.F, Ablow, J.C., Measelle, J.R., & Nigg, J.T. (2011). Emotion regulation via the autonomic nervous system in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39, 841-852. doi 10.1007/s10802-011-9499-1.

Backs, R. W., & Boucsein, W. (2009). Psychophysiology in digital human modeling. In V. G. Duffy (Ed.), Handbook of Digital Human Modeling for Applied Ergonomics and Human Factors Engineering, (pp. 16-1 - 16-14). London: Taylor & Francis.

Boucsein, W., & Backs, R. W. (2009). The psychophysiology of emotion, arousal, and personality: Methods and models. In V. G. Duffy (Ed.), Handbook of Digital Human Modeling for Applied Ergonomics and Human Factors Engineering, (pp. 35-1 - 35-18). London: Taylor & Francis.

da Silva, S. P., Hulce, V. D., & Backs, R. W. (2009). Effects of obstructive sleep apnea on autonomic cardiac control during sleep. Sleep and Breathing, 13, 147-156.

Lenneman, J. K., & Backs, R. W. (2009). Cardiac autonomic control during simulated driving with a concurrent verbal working memory task. Human Factors, 51, 404-418.