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Title: Measuring the decision accuracy and decision confidence of air defence operators
Author: Adams-White, Jade Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 7964 2275
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
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Air defence decision making is demanding, time pressured and complex. Operators must make complex and cognitively demanding decisions in dynamic and uncertain environments. This thesis sought to increase the understanding of, and measure, decision confidence and accuracy in air defence decision making. In doing so, a novel method was designed and developed which was based on an integration of Classical Decision Making (CDM) and Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM) theories of decision making. Decision making is dependent on an interaction between both the situational demands of the task as well as individual differences in the decision maker. In addition, two key elements of decision making are the accuracy of the decision taken and its associated confidence. The body of work contained in this thesis, therefore, examined the impact of both external factors relating to decision making which included Decision Criticality, Task Load, Time Pressure and Audio communication, as well as the internal factors of Personality, Cognitive Constructs and Video Game experience. These factors were considered in relation to decision accuracy, confidence and W-S C-A (a measure of metacognitive ability). The experimental stimulus was developed with the help of Subject Matter Experts. This included the development of a realistic computer-generated air defence scenario in which the Task Load (high, moderate, low) was varied. In addition, an appropriate range of classifiable decision options, which varied in Decision Criticality (high, medium, low) was also generated. Three-hundred novice participants and twenty-two experts took part across a range of experiments. The Experimental Work consisted of two sections. The first section contained the foundation and investigatory work. The second section assessed the application of this measure through the use of feedback/training and expert participants. The results highlight the impact that Decision Criticality, which is the level of consequence associated with a decision, has on individual decision making. Findings show that a decision which was higher in criticality impacted positively on the performance by increasing decision accuracy. Individual participants tended to be less confident in their decisions when responding to decision events of medium criticality. Higher Decision Criticality was also shown to increase metacognitive abilities. That is, individuals were better able to discriminate between their accurate and inaccurate responses. Decision confidence was found to be both relatively stable and high across the experiments, indicating high levels of confidence in decisions, regardless of any other experimental variables including Task Load, Time Pressure and Audio. Such confidence was heightened in individuals who played video games on a regular basis. Internal factors also suggest that there may be individual differences that relate to decision making. Indeed, a higher tolerance of ambiguity may be beneficial in helping individuals deal with uncertain environments, such as in air defence. Although results of personality trait were largely inconclusive, low neuroticism and high conscientiousness appear to be beneficial in critical environments. Additionally, through the introduction of a metacognitive feedback training element, the research investigated the application of the measure. The results from this study demonstrated that, with metacognitive instruction, individuals displayed improved metacognitive ability. The experimental work also contains the first research to apply this method using active Royal Navy air defence personnel. The results from this experiment replicated the findings of criticality in the novice participants. The results thereby identify how this approach could be applied to air defence settings, and, illustrate the increased ecological validity of the findings. Recommendations suggest the findings can be applied to training and decision support technology. Further, the outcomes generally support the potential use of more traditional experimental methods alongside naturalistic approaches in critical environments, and that such an approach is warranted. Researchers and practitioners need to consider new approaches to research design to examine decision making in critical environments going forward. Overall, this thesis further contributes to the air defence decision making domain by providing valuable insights into the external and internal factors that are significant and relate to air defence decision making. Importantly, the work clearly showed Decision Criticality as an important factor that needs to be addressed when investigating decision making in critical environments. Individual differences were also demonstrated to be an important consideration.
Supervisor: Jump, Michael ; Wheatcroft, Jacqueline Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral