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Situational awareness ability and cognitive skills training in a complex real-world task

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Successful performance in complex dynamic environments depends on domain-dependent factors, such as situational awareness (SA). Underlying SA in a domain are domain-independent cognitive abilities in perception, memory, attention and executive control. Individuals with lower underlying ability perform relatively poorly in complex dynamic real-world tasks. The first experiment examined whether cognitive skills training could overcome limitations in underlying SA ability that impact on complex dynamic task performance. Participants were taught a mix of cognitive management strategies (e.g. divided and focused attention and visual search) in a simulated air traffic control task. A second experiment investigated the link between underlying SA ability, TRACON and SAGAT, a widely used measure of domain-specific SA. In a third experiment, the focus was on encouraging participants to plan ahead and consider the interrelations of elements (aircraft) in the environment. Whilst both training methods ameliorated the negative impact that lower SA ability had on complex dynamic task performance, the results of the third study indicated that this may have been achieved through improved planning behaviour. Finally, participants with higher underlying SA ability performed well irrespective of training condition.
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Keywords: Cognitive skills; Keywords; Planning; Situational awareness; Training

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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