Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Hard Work Of Vigilance Can Improve On Cue

Date:
January 9, 2003
Source:
University Of Cincinnati
Summary:
For a fighter pilot, flagging attention could bring crashing consequences. The same holds true for air-traffic controllers, for airport-security personnel and for other industries as well. And lapses in attention are always likely because vigilance is hard work for the human brain. But the drain on the brain can be reduced and performance enhanced by prompting attention, according to research by a team of University of Cincinnati and Catholic University of America psychologists.

For a fighter pilot, flagging attention could bring crashing consequences. The same holds true for air-traffic controllers, for airport-security personnel and for other industries as well.

Related Articles


And lapses in attention are always likely because vigilance is hard work for the human brain. But the drain on the brain can be reduced and performance enhanced by prompting attention, according to research by a team of University of Cincinnati and Catholic University of America psychologists.

The research, performed at the University of Cincinnati which houses the nation's largest vigilance testing laboratory, was just published in the January 2003 issue of the quarterly journal, Theoretical Issues in Ergonomic Science.

In the project, the researchers tested to see if warning cues helped subjects to more effectively complete vigilance tasks. Said UC psychology professor Joel Warm, "We've known since World War II that missed signals from declining vigilance is a serious problem with workers. It's not that workers are not motivated. The navy personnel searching for submarines during World War II were very motivated. Yet, they still experienced sharp declines in attention and missed signals that meant lost lives.

"We have the same challenges today as more and more human work involves automation, the supervised control of machines, whether the setting is an air-traffic control tower, a power plant, a long-distance truck or train, or a fighter jet. People think vigilance, the looking at a screen or other mechanical processes, isn't 'doing much.' Actually, it's a great deal of work, and it's very stressful." The study showed that one way to increase vigilance success is to simply provide cues that a critical signal is coming. In fact, when subjects consistently received reliable cues prior to an important signal, vigilance and performance remained consistently high during a 40-minute "shift" in a test that mimicked an air-traffic control display. Critical signals for detection, consisting of planes traveling on a collision course, were mixed with non-critical signals, consisting of planes traveling on non-collision courses.

Subjects were divided into four groups. The first group received cues that were 100-percent reliable. In other words, they were told they would be forewarned, and that each cue of "look" would be followed by a critical signal. The second group was given cues that were 80-percent reliable (and were likewise told their warnings were 80-percent reliable). The third group was given cues that were 40-percent reliable (and, again, were told that their cues were 40-percent reliable). A final group was given no warnings.

At first, both those who received cues to expect an important signal and those who did not receive any cues performed in a similarly effective manner. However, the performance of non-cued subjects declined considerably over time while performance efficiency remained stable (and high) over time for the "100-percent" group. By the end of the session, efficiency was clearly best in the "100-percent" group followed in order by the "80-percent," "40-percent" and then the "no-cue" groups.

The research has practical ramifications for the use of cueing in many automated systems designed to forewarn monitors of impending, untoward events in the work world, including prompts for combat pilots to take notice of an enemy weapon system's radar lock or of equipment problems in the aircraft. Given the consistent finding that cueing benefits vigilance performance, Warm said that "one might take the position in designing operational cueing systems that some cueing is better than none; however, the reliability of operational cueing systems must be high. Otherwise, they may offer no real benefit while incurring considerable cost in sustained attention."

Cuing, already used in aviation and at power plants, reduces the workload of surveillance and of information processing. As such, cuing could be expanded to other applications; however, it must be very reliable to be effective in reducing brain strain.

Along with detection efficiency in this study, blood flow to the brain likewise correlated to the amount of warnings given. At the start of the study, blood flow to the brain was similar for all groups. However, it declined at different rates over time, depending on the warnings given. So, by the end of the vigil, blood flow was clearly highest in the "100-percent" group followed in order by the "80-percent," "40-percent" and "no-cue" groups. This leads to the conclusion that performance-related changes and blood flow to the brain may share common energy mechanisms. However, Warm warned that it remains to be seen what, precisely, those mechanisms consist of.

The UC vigilance lab seeks to develop and test means for increasing effectiveness, productivity and safety in the many applications in which sustained attention plays a role. For instance, vigilance affects routine medical testing; process controls at nuclear and other types of power plants; production quality control, including that within the pharmaceutical industry; and even long-distance driving and transportation of goods.

In addition to Warm, others involved in this study were:

William Dember, UC professor emeritus of psychology; Gerald Matthews, UC professor of psychology; Raja Parasuraman, professor of psychology at the Catholic University of America; Paula Shear, UC associate professor of psychology; Former UC doctoral psychology students Edward Hitchcock and David Mayleben; Current UC doctoral psychology student Lloyd Tripp. This research and other vigilance projects at UC are sponsored by NASA and the U.S. Air Force.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Cincinnati. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Cincinnati. "The Hard Work Of Vigilance Can Improve On Cue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/01/030109072055.htm>.
University Of Cincinnati. (2003, January 9). The Hard Work Of Vigilance Can Improve On Cue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/01/030109072055.htm
University Of Cincinnati. "The Hard Work Of Vigilance Can Improve On Cue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/01/030109072055.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) — Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com
One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Phoenix hospital is experimenting with a faster way to test much needed medications for deadly brain tumors. Patients get a single dose of a potential drug, and hours later have their tumor removed to see if the drug had any affect. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

Buzz60 (Jan. 22, 2015) — What you do before bed can effect how well you sleep. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has bedtime rituals to induce the best night&apos;s sleep. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins