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1 Introduction THE COMMITTEE'S TASK At the request of the U.S. Army Research Institute, the National Research Council formed a committee to assess the field of techniques that are claimed to enhance human performance. The Institute asked the Council to evaluate the claims made by proponents of selected existing techniques and to address two general additional questions: (1) What are the appropriate criteria for evaluating claims for such techniques in the future? (2) What research is needed to advance our understanding of performance enhancement in areas related to the proposed techniques? The objectives of the committee's study are to provide an authoritative assessment of these questions for policymakers in research and devel- opment who are consumers of the techniques, as well as to consider their possible applications to Army training. Many of the techniques under consideration grew out of the human potential movement of the 1960s, including guided imagery, meditation, biofeedback, neurolinguistic programming, sleep learning, accelerated learning, split-brain learning, and various techniques to reduce stress and increase concentration. Many of these techniques have gained popularity over the past two decades, promoted by persons eager to provide answers to problems of human performance or to prosper from them. While often using the language of science to justify their approach, these promoters are for the most part not trained professionals in the social and behavioral sciences. Nonetheless, they do appeal to basic needs for human perform- ance, and the Army, like many other institutions, is attracted to the prospect of cost-effective procedures that can improve performance. 3
4 ENHANCING HUMAN PERFORMANCE These institutions must evaluate the effects of such procedures, however. Issues include the appropriateness of a quick-fix approach, the distinction between the impact of an experience and actual change, and the plausibility of evidence indicating that something is happening even if the effects are not reproducible or the benefits uncertain. A more conservative atmosphere in the 1980s is reflected in the way techniques are advanced. Motivation in the 1980s may be primarily entrepreneurial, not ideological, as it was in the 1960s. Advocates focus on relating the techniques to specific tasks, such as marksmanship, foreign language acquisition, fine motor skills, sleep inducement, and even combat effectiveness. Some techniques are in fact rooted in a scientific literature. For these reasons the various techniques have attracted the interest of institutions that have rejected, and would probably continue to reject, countercultural trends in society. Indeed, much attention has been given to these techniques by industrial, government, and military policymakers, as well as by the general public. For this reason especially, it is important to address the issues surrounding the claims made for effectiveness. Elaborate training programs have grown, nourished by their developers' enthusiasm and salesmanship in a social context receptive to quick cures. For many of these programs, success in the marketplace is used to justify the approaches. For others, more esoteric concepts, including the role of neurotransmitters, the physics of neuromuscular programming, brain wave patterns, hemispheric laterality, high-access memory storage, pre- ferred sensory modalities, and low-gain innervation of muscles, are used to attempt to provide scientific justification for the claims. The chapters that follow evaluate the evidence and theories used to support the claims of several popular techniques. Before turning to these evaluations, however, we provide some background on the A'''~y's interest in these techniques, as well as a discussion of issues surrounding enhanced performance and issues in evaluating the relation between techniques and performance. THE ARMY'S NEEDS The Army motto, "Be all that you can be," symbolizes the current ethos of the institution, an army of excellence. Emphasis is placed on attaining certain ideals, such as fearlessness, cunning, courage, one-shot effectiveness, fatigue reversal, and nighttime fighting capabilities. These ideals are assumed to be realizable through training, even if the most effective techniques have not as yet been identified. The culture of improvement is further reinforced by the dilemma created by an all- volunteer Army and the demands of complex new computer technologies. Many civilians enter military service with only the required minimum of
INTROD UCTI ON s formal education; most of these volunteers enlist in the Army. For this reason, the Army's emphasis on skill training is well founded. The importance of the human element in combat is recognized in the Army Science Board's 1983 report "Emerging Concepts in Human Technology," which phrases the issue in terms of high yield at relatively low investment. Human capital is considered to be the best potential source for growth in Army effectiveness, both in terms of return on investment and as a moral imperative "if we are to commit our soldiers to fight outnumbered and win." The technologies singled out in the report are those that can improve creativity and innovation, learning and training, motivation and cohesion, leadership and management, individual, crew, and unit fitness, soldier-machine interface, and the general productivity of the Army's human resources. The Board's report largely bypasses issues of systematic evaluation of enhancement techniques within the Army context, while addressing mechanisms for integrating them with Army activities. Little concern is shown for adducing relevant criteria to determine whether implementation is feasible. The Army's ambitious goals, combined with a reluctance to deal with the complexities surrounding issues of human performance, make this institution potentially susceptible to a variety of claims made by technique developers. It would therefore seem prudent to devise criteria for evaluating those claims. A SELLER'S MARKET Techniques for enhancement of human performance have received much attention in the popular press. They have been actively promoted by entrepreneurs who sense a profitable market in self-improvement. The American Society for Training and Development "estimates that com- panies are spending an astounding $30 billion a year on formal courses and training programs for workers. And that's only the tip of the iceberg" (Wall Street Journal, August 5, 19861. They are also taken seriously by the U.S. military, who are at times accused of losing the "mind race" to the Soviets (see, for example, Anderson and Van Atta, Washington Post, July 17, 19851. The Army has shown particular interest in techniques that help people acquire, maintain, or improve such skills as classroom learning, communication and influence, creativity, and accuracy in the execution of tasks requiring motor skills. Those that are cost-effective and produce relatively rapid results are likely to receive the most attention, along with research breakthroughs that could be a basis for new training programs. What are these techniques? What claims are being made for them? Is there evidence that substantiates these claims? Examples of techniques include biofeedback (information about internal
6 ENHANCING HUMAN PERFORMANCE processes), Suggestive Accelerative Learning and Teaching Techniques (a package of methods geared primarily toward classroom learning), hemispheric synchronization (a machine-aided process based on assump- tions about right brain-left brain activities), neurolinguistic programming (procedures for influencing another person), and Concentrix (a procedure used to improve concentration on specific targets). Also of interest to the Army are such processes as group cohesion and stress reduction, as well as the claims for sleep learning, peak performance, and parapsy- chology. Together, these techniques and processes cover the major types of skills motor, cognitive, and social. Several of them are described here briefly, along with illustrative claims found in brochures and course material. Suggestive Accelerative Learning and Teaching Techniques (SALTT) is an approach to training that employs a combination of physical relaxation, mental concentration, guided imagery, suggestive principles, and baroque music with the intent of improving classroom performance. Some applications have included language training, typing instruction, and high school science courses. Attempts have been made to evaluate the applications, and many of these evaluations are published in the Journal of the Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching (Psy- chology Department, Iowa State University). The following is a sampling of claims made in brochures and convention announcements: "A proven method which has broad potential application in U.S. Army training"; "It will significantly reduce training time, improve memory of material learned and introduce behavioral changes that positively affect soldier performance-self-esteem, self-confidence, and mental discipline"; and "Most students will prove to themselves that they have learned a far greater amount of material per unit of time with a greater amount of pleasure than they have ever previously done." Neurolinguistic programming (NLPJ refers to a set of procedures developed to influence and change the behaviors and beliefs of a target person. Its goals are mostly therapeutic, but its proponents also advocate the use of the techniques in advertising, management, education, and interpersonal activities. A small research literature, published primarily in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, has developed. Practitioners can be trained and certified at various institutes, and the National Association for Neurolinguistic Programming distributes a newsletter to its membership, currently about 500 persons. Illustrative claims and testimonials found in advertising materials include: "ENLP] has evolved a unique technology which encompasses a set of specific techniques enabling you to produce well-defined results'' and "NLP . . . is clear, easy to learn, and brilliant." A typical slogan is that found in a brochure from the Potomac Institutes, Silver Spring, Maryland: ''The difference
INTRODUCTION 7 that makes the difference, for education, management' psychotherapy, psychiatry, business, law, health care, and the arts.'' Hemi-Sync~, which is short for hemispheric synchronization, is a technique that consists of presenting two tones slightly differing in frequency to separate ears with stereo headphones to produce binaural beats. The long-known result is a tone that waxes and wanes at a frequency equal to the difference between the original tones. Pioneered as an enhancement technique by Robert Monroe of the Monroe Institute of Applied Science in Faber, Virginia, the technique is based on the assumption of a frequency following response (FFR) in the human brain. The FFR refers to a correspondence between sound signals heard by the ear and electrical signals recorded by an electroencephalograph (EEG). It is claimed that, by altering sound patterns, it is possible to alter states of awareness. Stated applications are in the areas of language learning, stress management, reading skills, and creativity and problem solving. Claims of effectiveness stated in the Monroe Institute's brochure are wide-ranging, covering education (e.g., "77.8 percent of a class reported improvement in mental-motor skills''), health (early recuperation, lower blood pressure), psychotherapy (stress reduction, working with terminally ill patients, teaching autistic children), and sleep restorative training (e.g., ''forty of forty-five insomniacs reported that one-month use of Hemi- Sync¢3 tapes was at least as effective as medication, without the drug side effects". SyberVision(~ is a scripted videotape that presents an expert (e.g., a world-class athlete) repeatedly performing fundamental skills of his or her activity (e.g., golf) without verbal instructions. It is based loosely on principles of vicarious learning, guided imagery, and mental rehearsal. Developed and marketed by SyberVision Systems Inc., San Leandro, California, the package includes a cassette and instruction manual with an appendix on the "simple physics of neuro-muscular programming." The appendix presents a scientific rationale for the technique, for example, "the more you see and hear pure movement, the deeper it becomes imprinted in your nervous system . . . and the more likely you are to perform it as a conditioned reflex," and ''The decomposition of what is seen and sensorily experienced into an electromagnetic wave form is accomplished by a complex mathematical operation (Fourier Transform) by the brain'' (Instruction Manual on Golf with Patty Sheehan). Support for enhanced performance is, however, based on testimonials rather than experiments, for example, Killy on skiing, a Stanford tennis coach on tennis, Professional Golf Association members on golf, Peters (In Search of Excellence) on achievement, Salk on leadership, and a variety of corporate executives and educators on self-improvement. Claims range from sweeping statements (e.g.' "We owe these two men a large debt of
8 ENHANCING HUMAN PERFORMANCE gratitude") to rather precise statements (e.g., "In 47 days I have lost 25 pounds [191 to 166], yet I look like I lost 40") (in the United Airlines magazine, Discoveries). This technique involves a significant marketing effort that builds on users' willingness to be quoted and the use of acknowledged academic experts (e.g., Stanford neuropsychologist Karl Pribram), whose role in the program is advertised as being central. Stress management techniques are procedures designed to alleviate anxiety or tension. Catering to an age of anxiety, self-help books, groups, and clinics on managing stress proliferate. A good example of the approach is the recent book by Charlesworth and Nathan (1982), which emphasizes fitness, nutrition, managing time, general life-styles and life-cycles, as well as strategies such as progressive relaxation, autogenic training, and image rehearsal. Appendixes provide the reader with home practice charts, a guide to self-help groups, and suggested books and recordings. The groups offer their members information, emotional support, and a sense of belonging. Often stress management procedures are combined with a number of other techniques into a single package. The promoters often emphasize the total package rather than particular techniques; the packages usually combine several processes that, when acting together, are thought to produce significant effects. The Army's needs for techniques that can improve performance make it subject to the sorts of claims illustrated above. While they and other consumers can avoid the more obvious pitfalls, the proliferation of choices and products and the lack of scientific evidence allow marketplace criteria to become the bases for decisions. But there are exceptions. Some techniques have received the attention of the scientific community, and evidence is available to be used as criteria in such areas as biofeedback, guided imagery, sleep learning, cohesion, and even for some aspects of psychic phenomena and neurolinguistic programming. The literature has alerted us, for example, to the distinction between the effects of biofeedback on fine motor skills and on stress, to the different effects of mental and physical rehearsal, to placebo and Haw- thorne effects in stress research, to the priming and repetition effects of material presented during sleep, to some dysfunctions of group cohesion, to the difficulties of replicating experiments on extrasensory perception, and to the implausibility of specialized sensory modalities as postulated by NLP (see Appendix D for key terms). These findings make evident a complex relation between technique and performance. IMPROVED PERFORMANCE: COMPLEX ISSUES, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS The research literature in such traditional areas of experimental psy- chology as learning, perception, sensation, and motivation suggests
INTROD UCTION 9 complex relations between interventions and improved performance. Many technique promoters appear to pay little attention to this literature, preferring an alternative route to invention: rather than derive a procedure from appropriate scientific literature, they create techniques from personal experiences, sudden insights, or informal observation of ''what works." Science may enter the process after the technique is developed and used, for example, to legitimize its use or to endorse methods for evaluation. Research follows rather than precedes the invention. This sequence increases the likelihood that important considerations will be missed. We highlight some of these considerations in this section. The lack of easy avenues to improved performance may well be due to the complexity of the behavior in question. One definition of skills emphasizes the importance of the coordination of behavior: "A skilled response . . . means one in which receptor-effector-feedback processes are highly organized, both spatially and temporally. The central problem for the study of skill learning is how such organizations or patterning comes about" (Fists, 1964: 244~. This definition implies that skill learning involves an orchestration of diverse processes, making the topic an interesting one to various subfields of psychology. It also makes evident a number of unresolved issues, including whether different skills are learned and retained in different ways. The research findings obtained in this literature contribute to our understanding of the necessary, if not sufficient, conditions for improved performance. Research on skill acquisition addresses such basic questions as What are the stages of learning? and What is learned? Distinctions made between short-term and long-term memory storage and between schemes and details have contributed to our understanding of basic processes (see Welford, 1976~. Other questions have more direct consequences for application: for example, what contributes to the acquisition and main- tenance of skills? How can the adverse effects of stress, fatigue, and monotony be avoided? These questions are the basis for programs of research that can be divided into several parts, each defined in terms of empirical issues (Irion, 1969; see also the other chapters in Bilodeau and Bilodeau, 19691. Some examples of empirical issues are practice effects (differences due to distributed versus massed practice, long versus short rest periods, short versus long sessions), the whole-part problem (differ- ences due to learning a task as a whole versus learning it by its constituent elements), feedback (differences due to delays in receiving knowledge of results and to type of information during the delay period), retention (differences due to whether the the task is motor or verbal), and transfer of training. These and related considerations suggest that skill learning is an incremental process likely to differ from one type of skill to another. Whether intending to enhance motor, verbal, problem-solving, or social
lo ENHANCING HUMAN PERf ORMANCE performances, technique designers can ill afford to ignore these lessons from the experimental literature on skill acquisition and maintenance. It is also the case, however, that the agenda of unexplored issues is much larger than the accomplishments to date, and this is recognized particularly in the rapidly growing field of cognitive psychology, in which the ''information-processing revolution" is just beginning. Practical applications are, however, not automatic. Many excellent applications do not spring from basic science; some are the result of craft and experience. More important perhaps are the indirect contributions made in both directions-from basic to applied and vice versa. A systematic approach taken in both domains serves to vitalize each, as when applied investigations reveal new phenomena that need explanation or when a new package incorporates basic principles discovered originally in the laboratory. Such an approach is likely to facilitate the design of appropriate techniques for skill acquisition. At issue is whether a particular technique can produce and sustain desired changes. One conclusion from the research accumulated to date is that effective interventions are those that are continuous and self-regulating and take account of both context and person (see, for example, Lerner, 19841. Particularly relevant is the difference between short-term and long-term changes. Effects obtained by many techniques for performance enhance- ment may be short-term in their effects. This distinction is made by Back (1973, 1987) in his evaluation of the sensitivity training movement. The changes observed by sensitivity trainers and documented by evaluators may well reflect the impact of the experience per se. Such situation effects are unlikely to be sustained in different environments, an obser- vation supported by the literatures in both developmental and social psychology (Druckman, 1971; Frederiksen, 19724. These literatures cau- tion against hasty generalizations from observed, situation-specific effects; they also explain why long-term effects may be difficult to produce with brief exposures to "treatments." Like the sensitivity trainers of the 1960s and 1970s, many of the promoters (and consumers) of the 1980s pay little attention to issues of causality and intrinsic motivation, preferring instead to dwell on single dimensions of treatments or to offer a mixed package constructed in arbitrary ways and producing diffuse effects that reflect the experience. The issue of expected benefits from techniques provides a bridge between research and application. Research can be designed to evaluate techniques, as well as to discover possible unintended side effects. Indeed, a research literature has developed in some of the areas examined in this book, namely biofeedback, stress, and guided imagery. For many other techniques, however, a relevant body of research does not exist; this lack applies to some of the techniques examined by the committee,
INTROD UCTI ON ~ ~ as well as to those yet to appear on the market. It is these techniques that present a problem for us as evaluators. Evaluation without data is dit-ticult, but not 1mposslole. Our approach Is to p~;e `~c ~;~u~ [filly broader categories corresponding to the key processes being influenced, for example, learning, motor skills, and influence. By so doing, the claims can be evaluated within the frameworks of existing theories and metho- dologies. They can also be judged against results obtained in related areas. This approach serves as the organizing theme for the chapters that follow. EVALUATING THE TECHNIQUES Evaluations properly hinge on answers to a standard set of questions proposed in a paper entitled "Evaluating Human Technologies: What Questions Should We Ask?" by Hegge, Tyner, and Genser (1983) at the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research: · What changes will the technique produce? · What evidence supports the claims for the technique? · What theories stand behind the technique? · Who will be able to use the technique? · What are the implications of the technique for Army operations? · How does the technique fit with Army philosophy? · What are the cost-benefit factors? These questions served as guidelines for the committee's evaluations. Appendix A is a summary description of each technique, organized along the lines of the Hegge, Tyner, and Genser questions, covering theory, research, and application. For many of the categories, however, the desired information is either too limited to be useful or simply not available; in such cases we have considered other strategies for evaluation. The committee faced a number of difficulties in evaluation that stem from recurrent problems posed by the technologies. One is the tendency for some promoters (and consumers) to rely primarily on testimonials or anecdotal evidence as a basis tor application. AnO~ner is a general lack of strong research designs to provide evidence of effects. These problems are considered also in the context of specific techniques discussed in the chapters of Parts II and III. Practitioners of techniques often emphasize the value of personal or clinical experience and marketplace popularity as bases for judging the techniques. They are generally less inclined to seek research evidence or to support research evaluation programs. These attitudes may be related to the fact that few practitioners are trained as researchers. For some it is sufficient to let others do the research. For others, research is
2 ENHANCING HUMAN PERFORMANCE viewed, in varying degrees, as a threat to their product. At one extreme, research is regarded as a debunking enterprise, engaged in by scientists who have little interest in providing human services. At another extreme, the problem is one of educating the researchers in nuance, context, and a clinical approach that emphasizes adapting techniques to changed situations and client tastes. The result is a gap in communication epitomized by two cultures scientists searching for evidence and prac- titioners seeking effects and cures. A step toward bridging the gap would consist of mutual education through joint ventures. These ventures would expose scientists to the goals (and motives) of practitioners and would also make practitioners aware of the general analytical approaches used by scientists. Experimentation is an appropriate vehicle for evaluating performance- enhancing techniques; the problem is usually defined in terms of effects of techniques (procedures) on performance (behaviors). It is also appro- priate at an earlier stage in the process, when products are being developed. Products evolve in a kind of trial-and-error fashion similar in many respects to scientific discoveries. One model for integrating research with product development is engineering research and development (R&D). A strenuous applied research effort accompanies the development process in many firms, as does a quality-control program designed to evaluate products both during development and after they have been placed on the market. With a few exceptions, this model has not been adopted by firms or institutions in the field of performance enhancement. Experimental evidence has accumulated in some areas related to techniques. Although not linked specifically to product development in the manner of an R&D operation, this work does address the question, What evidence supports the claims for the technique? In fact, so strong is the experimental tradition in some areas that a body of work has developed programmatically within a generally accepted paradigm (e.g., guided imagery). The benefits of a long research tradition can be seen in these areas. Meta-analyses have been performed and can be used as a basis for evaluation. For other areas, we are presented with the prospect of relying on scattered experiments or using other criteria as a basis for evaluation, or both (see Appendix A for summaries of the state of the science in each of the areas). However, the benefits of experimental evidence derive primarily from the general approach rather than from the particular experiments. This idea is captured by Kelman, who noted that ''an experimental finding . cannot very meaningfully stand by itself. Its contribution to knowledge hinges on the conceptual thinking that has produced it and into which it is subsequently fed back" (1968:1611. We emphasize here the contribution
INTRODUCTION 13 of an analytical approach to thinking about behavior, as distinct from the establishment of laws about psychological processes. It is the cumulation of a series of experiments that winnows out the useful parts of treatments or techniques. It is the self-correcting progression of new experiments that refines treatments, saving those that work and discarding those that do not (or that work only under very restricted conditions). This process contributes equally well to the goals of theory development and product development. Other evaluation criteria elucidated by Hegge, Tyner, and Genser (1983) include theories, uses, and implications for Army operations and philosophy. A problem with these criteria is that they tend to be vague and somewhat idiosyncratic, making it difficult to propose general cate- gories on which most people would agree. Without precisely defined categories for judging techniques, it is difficult to address issues of transfer of performance from one situation to another or to evaluate newly emerging techniques. A similar problem exists with respect to developing taxonomies in broadly defined fields: there is little agreement on a set of categories for the fields of human learning, performance, motivation, perception, and social and organizational processes. More mature sub- disciplines provide an empirical basis for taxonomies, allowing for more tightly constructed systems of tasks and situations: for example, rote learning, short-term memory, concept learning, problem solving, work motivation, and team functions (see Fleishman and Quaintance, 19841. . An advantage of such systems is that they capture rather precise relationships between task and performance. This discussion serves only to introduce the issues and identifies several themes that receive more detailed attention in the chapters to follow. First, any evaluation must take into account the status of the available evidence. Confidence placed in judgments about a technique should be based on the quality of the evidence produced by researchers. Second, the evaluator cannot afford to rely exclusively on a single criterion for judging effectiveness. Theoretical and applied issues are also important, as are considerations of values served or violated by use of the technique. Third, technique development issues are not isolated from research or analytical issues. Each step in the process of product design can be regarded as an empirical issue; decisions made about procedures and packaging can be the result of experimental outcomes. Fourth, the subject of enhancing human performance is not new. It has been a topic of interest for centuries and an area of scientific work for several decades. The literatures on learning and skill acquisition should be consulted by developers, and insights derived from these literatures should be used in product design.
4 ENHANCING [I UMA N PERFORMA NCE These themes are woven throughout the discussions of specific tech- niques. Each chapter discusses relevant literature, describes the specific techniques, points to directions for further research when appropriate, and notes possible applications in military and industrial settings. Despite the common coverage, however, each chapter is also unique in that each is tailored to the particular problems associated with its focus.