James L. Szalma Louis C. Miller Edward M. Hitchcock Joel S. Warm William N. Dember University of Cincinnati
Studies on training for vigilance reveal that feedback in the form of knowledge of results (KR) enhances performance efficiency, and that these effects transfer to subsequent conditions where KR is withdrawn ( Davies & Parasuraman, 1982). A central issue in transfer of training is whether transfer results from general, nonspecific factors, such warm-up or learning-to-learn, from factors specific to the particular task in question, or some combination thereof ( Underwood, 1966). Wiener ( 1967) argued that the problem of training for vigilance may not be especially complex, since such training is primarily general in character. This view was challenged by Becker, Warm, and Dember ( 1994), who used what Davies and Parasuraman ( 1982) describe as simultaneous- (comparative judgment) or successive- (memory based absolute judgment) type vigilance tasks. They found strong evidence for specific transfer in both the simultaneous and successive formats, but little evidence for general transfer. Accordingly, Becker et al. suggested that training for vigilance is task-type specific.
Becker et al. tested specific transfer by training observers on one task and testing them on the identical task, making use of the maximum conditions for assessing specific transfer ( Underwood, 1966). While an approach of this sort can provide strong evidence for such transfer when the training task per se is the primary dimension of interest, it does not provide compelling evidence for specific transfer when the training task is intended to represent a class of tasks, since category-specific effects are then potentially confounded with display-specific effects. Thus, the limits of the specific component of transfer cannot be determined from their experiment.
The present investigation was designed to disengage category-specific and display-specific components in training for vigilance. Toward that end, a SIMULTANEOUS-TYPE TASK featuring vernier discriminations was employed as a criterion task, and comparisons were made of transfer effects which resulted from (a) training on the Criterion task itself, (b) training on another SIMULTANEOUS task featuring discriminations of spatial distance, and (c) training on a SUCCESSIVE task which also featured spatial distance discriminations. If transfer of training in vigilance is indeed task-type specific, we would expect transfer to the Criterion task to be greater from another simultaneous task than from a successive task.
Ninety-six undergraduates, 48 men and 48 women, served as observers to fulfill a course requirement. They ranged in age from 17 to 34 years, with a mean of 21 years. All participants had normal or corrected-to-normal vision and were free of any known hearing impairment.
Three task conditions (Simultaneous/Criterion, Simultaneous/Alternate, and Successive) were combined factorially with two levels of KR (KR, No-KR) to produce six experimental groups. Sixteen observers were assigned at random to each group with the restriction that the groups were equated for sex. The groups were defined by the nature of their KR-training/transfer experience: (1) Simultaneous/Criterion/KR--observers received KR training on the SIMULTANEOUS/Criterion task and were then tested on that task; (2) Simultaneous/Alternate/KR--observers received training on the alternate SIMULTANEOUS task and were then tested on the Criterion task; (3) Successive/KR--observers were trained on a SUCCESSIVE task and then were tested on the Criterion task. The observers in the other three groups did not receive KR-training. They were tested on the CRITERION task after initial experience with either the Criterion task itself, the SIMULTANEOUS/Alternate task, or the SUCCESSIVE task. The No-KR