IN THIS PART WE DISCUSS ISSUES concerning ways to optimize the performance of individuals and teams, particularly by interventions that take place just prior to or during actual performance. The committee's decision to divide this topic into two chapters was based on the view that what works for individual performers may not work for groups. This view is supported by results of numerous studies on group problem solving: for example, unlike individuals, groups must deal with coordination problems with respect to the pooling and processing of information and a division of tasks.
An increasingly popular topic for psychologists is research on performance in sports. The literature to date has contributed both to the further development of theories of performance under pressure and to understanding of performance in a variety of individual and team sports. Continuing the committee's work on effects of mental practice (Druckman and Swets, 1988:Chapter 5), the discussion in Chapter 11 summarizes the results of studies conducted since the earlier report appeared. A number of other practical implications are suggested by the research summarized in this chapter, which covers preperformance interventions, the use of preparation rituals, the use of physiological indicators to assist in determining effective performance, and the use of exercise. The rapid increase of knowledge in this field suggests a virtually unlimited potential for contributions to understanding and improving performance under pressure.
Shifting the focus from individual to group performance, Chapter 12 emphasizes the need to invest in long-term research on groups that perform in operational environments. This topic has received very little attention in the research and development community. Although the academic research to date has some implications for improving suboptimal group performance, it is limited by a failure to capture a number of critical dimensions present in actual group situations. By elucidating some of these dimensions, the chapter provides a framework for designing laboratory and field studies that are relevant to the types of situations found in a variety of military and industrial organizations. There is much to be learned about the way that groups perform; this chapter provides guidance on how to proceed.