Academic journal article Human Factors

Validation of the AGARD STRES Battery of Performance Tests

Academic journal article Human Factors

Validation of the AGARD STRES Battery of Performance Tests

Article excerpt


Only recently in the field of human performance assessment have systematic efforts been made to integrate findings or standardize the collection of data in order to facilitate accurate comparison of experimental results and to aid in the setting up of appropriate normative databases. This, in effect, has been the objective of the Tri-Service Working Group of the Office of Military Performance Assessment Technology through the construction of standardized human performance tests. One of the results of this group's work has been the development of the Unified Tri-Service Cognitive Performance Assessment Battery (UTC-PAB) - "a specialized human performance task battery for laboratory and field research" (Schlegel & Gilliland, 1992, p. 1).

A well-developed subset of this battery, put together by the Aerospace Medical Panel - Working Group 12, is the AGARD Standardized Tests for Research with Environmental Stressors (STRES) battery (Reeves et al., 1991), referred to as the AGARD battery in the rest of this article. Work with this set of tests addresses the well-documented issue of relating the detrimental effects of stressors to well-being and job and task performance (e.g., Friend, 1982; Spielberger, Sarason, Strelau, & Brebner, 1991; Srivastava & Krishna, 1991). This battery of performance tests is the focus of this paper.

Construction of the AGARD Battery

The development of all tests making up the AGARD battery, as with those making up the more comprehensive UTC-PAB, uses cognitive modeling as its basis and aims to account for induced effects on stages of cognitive processing through the use of appropriate performance measures. The objective of the NATO Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development (AGARD) is to address more specifically the assessment of cognitive performance as it is affected by environmental stressors (AGARD, 1989). In using cognitive modeling as a basis, the AGARD battery has its origins in human performance theory (HPT).

Human performance theory. One of the goals of HPT is to establish relations between task variable and human performance, which has, in turn, led to the development of a number of information-processing models. However, common assumptions underlie these models, and it is possible to construct a modal model that explains underlying cognitive functioning (AGARD, 1989). This model draws on the computer analogy and, specifically, the notion of limited capacity, "which suggests both that mental processes are time-consuming and that the time required increases with complexity" (AGARD, 1989, p. 2). This then becomes the rationale for the use of reaction time (RT) as the basic measure of the AGARD battery.

Limitations of HPT. HPT attempts to make sense of the way incoming information is perceived and subsequently processed by the brain. For this reason, tasks to investigate these processes are typically highly controlled to match the tightly constrained paradigm in which researchers are operating. However, in real-life situations, stimuli may be more complex and ambiguities and other confounding elements may exist, thus distorting the picture of human functioning being formed in the laboratory. Overall, it appears that the performance tasks developed under the banner of HPT are likely to sample only relatively low-level human behaviors and, in assessing the effects of stressors in real life, are therefore of use only with very well defined tasks.

Criteria Used in the Selection of Tests

Individual tests were chosen on the basis of survey results in order to provide measures of a wide range of mental processes (Sanders, Haygood, Schroiff, & Wauschkuhn, 1986) and in accordance with the following criteria:

1. preliminary evidence of reliability, validity, and sensitivity;

2. documented history of application to assessment of a range of stressor effects;

3. short duration (maximum of three minutes per trial block);

4. …

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