Stress and Human Performance

By James E. Driskell; Eduardo Salas | Go to book overview
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7 Training for Stress Exposure

Joan Hall Johnston

Janis A. Cannon-Bowers

Naval Air Warfare Center

Training Systems Division

Since the 1980s, the implementation of stress-coping training programs to enhance employee attitudes and performance has accelerated ( Ivancevich, Matteson, Freedman, & Phillips, 1990). For example, Gebhardt and Crump ( 1990) reported that "in 1987 there were 50,000 companies (with 100 or more employees) providing some type of employer-sponsored health promotion program" (p. 263). In order to justify this enormous capital investment in employee welfare, such programs should show evidence of training effectiveness such as improved productivity. However, empirical confirmation for worksite stress coping training success is lacking. In a recent review, Ivancevich et al. found that most studies consisted of subjective and anecdotal evaluations that were based on an "atheoretical" foundation. They concluded that a disproportionate focus on individual attitudes had slowed progress in the development of a model of stress coping training effectiveness and recommended that future research should be based on a sound theoretical framework which includes evaluations of relevant organizational stressors and performance variables. In particular, they recommended that the effects of situational or "naturalistic" stressors in the work environment should be studied in a systematic fashion in order to identify the causes of performance problems. Consequently, training programs should be designed to address performance outcomes associated with specific stressors.

Indeed, such disasters as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the USS Vincennes have underscored the importance of developing training interventions to offset the effects of real world stressors on complex cognitive tasks. Although little research in this area exists to date, there are current efforts to addressing this issue ( Cannon-Bowers, Salas, & Grossman, 1991). For example, the USS Vincennes incident instigated the creation of a research program to develop training


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