aOxford College of Emory University, Oxford, GA, USAbFlorida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA
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Objectives.A pilot and two studies were conducted to examine the uniqueness of three dimensions of perceived effort, i.e., sensory-discriminative, motivational-affective, and cognitive-evaluative, and to discern how these dimensions are perceived during engagement in two physically demanding tasks.Method.Adult participants were exposed to the sensation of physical effort via two exhaustive tasks: a handgrip squeezing task Symbol and a stationary cycling task Symbol. Perceptual sensations representing three dimensions of effort (sensory-discriminative, motivational-affective, and cognitive-evaluative) were measured at regular intervals for the duration of the two tasks.Results.Perceptual sensations were perceived distinctly, and altered differently during time and effort accumulation. Sensory-discriminative and cognitive-evaluative sensations were initially perceived to be slight, but increased gradually with increasing task intensity; cognitive-evaluative sensations were felt more strongly than sensory-discriminative sensations during both tasks. Motivational-affective sensations were moderately perceived from the start, and ratings remained relatively stable for the duration of the tasks.Conclusion.Perceptual sensations of effort are determined by the task characteristics, and their distinct nature necessitates further research. To study the dependence of perceived effort on one physiological index is an oversimplification of the psychophysiological construct. Accordingly, a single-item measure of effort, such as Borg's RPE scale, is insufficient to capture the whole range of perceptual sensations that people experience when exercising or being physically active.