THE COMMITTEE'S FIRST PHASE
Six years ago the Army Research Institute (ARI) asked the National Research Council (NRC) to assess a field of popular techniques designed to enhance human performance. As a class, these techniques were considered extraordinary: they were developed outside of mainstream research in the behavioral sciences and were accompanied by strong claims for high effectiveness. The “new age” techniques, many of which grew out of the human potential movement of the 1960s, were getting much attention in the popular press and being widely touted and sold to government and industry training programs. The Army's interest in assessing these techniques was propelled by its desire for large and quick enhancements of human performance, by any means available, and by substantial advocacy that fields such as parapsychology offered substantial potential for waging exceptionally advanced warfare.
In consultation with ARI, the NRC committee selected for evaluation a number of unconventional techniques that had been proposed to the Army to speed up the process of bringing unskilled and sometimes undereducated recruits to the level needed for an increasingly technical military force. Specifically, the Army was interested in accelerated learning, improved motor skills, altered mental states, stress reduction, interpersonal influence, group cohesion, and certain parapsychological processes. In addition to evaluating the claims of these techniques, the committee examined two other general questions: What are the appropriate criteria for evaluating claims for such techniques in the future?
What research is needed to advance understanding of performance enhancement in areas related to those techniques?
In its report, Enhancing Human Performance: Issues, Theories, and Techniques (Druckman and Swets, 1988), the committee presented conclusions for several areas of performance: whether more basic or applied research is warranted; whether Army training programs could benefit from new findings and procedures; and what, in particular, might be worth monitoring for possible breakthroughs. Finding that the claims made for many of the techniques did not withstand scientific scrutiny, the committee warned against substituting personal experience and marketplace popularity for research evidence.
The committee's work produced specific answers to questions regarding how to improve performance. On the positive side, the committee found scientific evidence for: the possibility of priming future learning by presenting material during certain stages of sleep; improving learning by integrating certain instructional elements; improving skilled motor performance through various combinations of mental and physical practice; reducing stress by providing information that increases a person's sense of control; and maximizing group performance by taking advantage of organizational cultures to transmit values. On the negative side, the committee found: a lack of supporting evidence for such techniques as visual training exercises, hemispheric synchronization, and neurolinguistic programming; a lack of scientific justification for the parapsychological phenomena reviewed; some potentially negative effects for group cohesion; and ambiguous evidence for the effectiveness of the learning package known as suggestive accelerative learning and teaching techniques. (See also Swets and Bjork  for a summary of the committee' s findings.)
The favorable reports received from various field units encouraged the Army to follow many of the committee's recommendations, including support for field experiments on mental practice conducted at Fort Knox and Redstone Arsenal; a renewed interest in stress-reduction procedures, including meditation; a reduced interest in programs designed to train officers to use neurolinguistic programming and hemispheric synchronization; and a decision to discourage applications of parapsychological techniques. The Army also decided to ask the committee to continue work in the area of enhancing human performance.
THE COMMITTEE'S SECOND PHASE
The committee's mandate for a second phase consisted of following up some recommendations made in the first report, in particular, to address broad theoretical principles underlying training programs. A
consideration of training issues is driven by practical needs: as the largest training institution in the world, the Army faces increasing demands for technical skills needed to perform sophisticated combat and noncombat missions. Related to these demands are issues of long-term career development: career planning must now take into account the cultivation and perpetuation of skills needed to perform complex tasks. A variety of factors are relevant, including basic psychological knowledge, skills acquisition and maintenance, expert modeling, optimizing performance under special conditions, performing under pressure, and team performance. These are some of the topics that formed the agenda for the committee's second phase of work.
In this phase, the committee turned from an evaluation of some popular techniques claimed to enhance human performance to a consideration of more basic issues of performance. These issues can be divided broadly into three parts: training and career development, altering mental states for improved performance, and performing, at both the individual and team level. Work on these issues was implemented through a subcommittee structure (see Appendix A).
Training issues were considered as three topics: problems of training for long-term retention of skills; modeling of expertise on complex skills; and developing careers over the long term. Four topics were included in the study of altering mental states: an evaluation of subliminal self-help audio cassette tapes in terms of what is known about subliminal learning; a review of the literature on the effects of meditation; a survey of what is known about the psychological aspects of managing pain; and an examination of issues concerned with deceiving and detecting deception in both laboratory and field settings. The problem of deception was included in part because of its relevance to practical issues of military security and in part because of its relevance to the topic of altering mental states for performance, which in turn relates to performing. Under the third set of issues, two topics were considered: techniques that facilitate preparing to perform, drawing on a large literature from the expanding field of sports psychology; and team performance, including a review of what is known about group problem solving and interactive decision making and a consideration of that basic knowledge in the context of real-world problems faced by such large organizations as the military.
The topics grew out of a framework for depicting processes and strategies for enhancing human performance. Arranged in one order, the topics reflect a sequence of stages from training strategies (stage 1), to preparation to perform strategies (stage 2), to actual performance (stage 3), to the postperformance retention of skills (stage 4). Arranged in another way, the topics reflect a focus on either emotional (mental states),
cognitive (modeling), or motor (performance) skills. Cutting across these schemes are issues of context and levels of analysis. With regard to context, we considered implications of training programs for career development. With regard to levels of analysis, we asked whether training strategies that work for individuals also work for groups: if not, why not? What are appropriate strategies for enhancing group performance?
The committee's approach to evaluation issues was presented in its first report (Druckman and Swets, 1988). One of the two key evaluation issues concerns basic research in terms of plausibility of inferences and causation. The second issue concerns field tests: Does a program work in field settings? Is it cost effective? The philosophy of evaluation discussed in that volume also guided the committee's work in this phase of its activities.
A large variety of information contributed to the committee's work; the committee benefited from the advice of experts who either prepared commissioned papers or hosted site visits at their laboratories or training facilities (see Appendix A). Papers prepared by Manuel London on career development, by Paul Thayer on self-assessment techniques, by David Shannahoff-Khalsa on meditation, and by Laura Darke on pain management complemented the published literature on those topics and provided useful conceptual frameworks not found elsewhere. Visits to Fort Bragg, Fort Belvoir, West Point, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Vic Braden's tennis college, and the Sillin Nuclear Training Center in Connecticut alerted the committee to real-world training issues and the way that actual programs to enhance performance are developed. An experiment on mental practice conducted at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama provided an opportunity to confront the problems of doing experiments in field settings, as well as further insight into the issue of generality of laboratory results. And a survey of Army War College students contributed to the committee's analysis of career development. Our findings from all of these activities, in addition to reviews of the most recent available research and the state of the art, are presented in this report.
This section gives readers an overview of the report, summarizing the key themes for each chapter. The next chapter presents the committee 's key findings and conclusions. Though addressing the Army's concerns in particular, the conclusions have a broad relevance to training and performance in educational and industrial contexts as well, and they add to the research literature on enhancing human performance.
Optimizing Long-Term Retention
Skills and knowledge gained in instructional programs are often exercised much later, even as long as a year or more following training. Thus, the committee examined training procedures that may be optimal for long-term posttraining effectiveness. Learning procedures are often evaluated by how rapidly they bring the learner to some criterion level of performance. There is now abundant research suggesting that procedures that might appear optimal if measured by short-term performance may be less than optimal if performances are measured weeks, months, or years after training. In this chapter the committee examines training procedures for enhancing the long-term retention of expertise, of nonexpert cognitive skills and knowledge, and of motor skills.
The potential of modeling experts for enhancing performance was suggested by the committee's prior review of neurolinguistic programming (NLP), by recent research findings, and by developments in sports training. In its otherwise pessimistic evaluation of NLP, the committee found promise in the importance that NLP attributes to decoding an expert 's behavior as a guide to training a beginner. Research on the nature of expertise has flourished in recent years and may provide a foundation for training programs. In this chapter the committee addresses issues related to understanding the knowledge that experts possess and how this knowledge is organized. This discussion draws on a large body of contemporary research on the concept of expertise. Other issues concern the nature of feedback in the context of apprenticeship learning and guided participation as well as issues concerned with transfer of training and generalization from a few training examples. The latter issue has special relevance to the many Army training programs where a skill is learned in one context and must be performed in another setting.
Two broad issues on careers are addressed by the committee: long-term career development in the military and the value of self-assessment techniques in career counseling. An attempt is made in this chapter to develop a broad perspective on career development. The perspective reflects insights from recent literature on managerial development and
performance in organizations and is a basis for a framework or model of careers that can be used to guide planning for an officer's progression through the ranks. A class of techniques designed to improve performance through increased self-insight is widely used in public and private organizations, including the Army. Although they have considerable appeal to both trainers and trainees, they have been subject to little rigorous research. In this chapter the committee surveys the use of these techniques in the Army, reports the results of a pilot evaluation of the impact on respondents, and conducts an appraisal of the most popular instrument of this genre, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
Altering Mental States
A large market for subliminal audiotapes suggests that many people believe that they contribute to self-improvement. Although many manufacturers claim that their tapes can alter attitudes, enhance confidence, and reduce anxieties, they do not provide references to studies demonstrating such effects. Despite the lack of supporting scientific evidence for particular methods, however, psychological research leaves little doubt that subliminal learning does occur. In its first report, the committee recommended taking a second look at phenomena associated with learning during sleep or without conscious awareness. A renewed interest by researchers in subliminal learning is due to recent results showing that some measures of memory seem sensitive to types of learning without awareness. These research developments, together with the marketplace popularity of various self-help techniques, led the committee to examine these phenomena further. Two issues in particular are highlighted in this chapter: the difference between subjectively perceptible and objectively detectable stimuli and reasons for an apparent improvement in performance in the absence of detectable subliminal suggestions. Although there are implications for these issues from the basic research literature on the history and current status of subliminal perception, no attempt is made to review that large literature.
During its first phase the committee recommended investigations of methods designed to alter mental states to ascertain whether they might suggest any practical applications. Results obtained from a number of studies suggest that altered states of consciousness may affect a variety of physiological processes related to performance. Altered states can
occur through the use of such methods as meditation and related relaxation therapies as well as through nonpharmacological ways of coping with physical pain. Of particular relevance to the military is the use of psychological methods to help people endure extremely stressful situations. This chapter considers what is known about effects of meditation and discusses the problem of application of meditation techniques in diverse situations. In this chapter the committee considers such issues as the role of meditation in reducing stress and hypertension, methodological problems in studies designed to evaluate effects on arousal (e.g, whether the effects are due uniquely to the meditation technique), and explanations of such well-known feats of endurance as “pit burials.” The chapter includes a summary of a critique of an earlier report (prepared by Brener and Connally  for the Army Research Institute) that reviewed much of the scientific literature on meditation.
A topic of considerable importance to the military is the way people cope with pain. A large literature on the psychology of pain and pain management provides some insights into coping skills. This chapter focuses on both defining the various types of pain and considering some treatments that have received attention in research on acute and chronic pain; it describes four dimensions of pain management and summarizes the seven psychological factors that influence the experience of pain. Among the treatments for acute pain that have been evaluated are providing sensory and procedural information to patients about surgery, relaxation training, training in coping skills, stress inoculation training, biofeedback, and hypnosis. With regard to chronic pain, the emphasis is on controlling pain behaviors: for example, one approach uses operant conditioning techniques to reward reduced reliance on medications and health care services.
Hiding and Detecting Deception
Problems of hiding and detecting deception were construed by the committee to be part of the more general topic of physical manifestations of mental and emotional states. Focusing primarily on nonverbal manifestations, this chapter reviews experimental literature on cues to lying and on problems in detecting deception. A number of nonverbal behaviors have been found to indicate deception as practiced by laboratory subjects; particularly revealing are cues “leaked” by individuals who are highly motivated to succeed in perpetrating a deception. This chapter considers many aspects of nonverbal behavior and the experi-
mental findings with subjects—both amateurs and experts—who try to detect deception.
A Broad Concept of Deception
A key question is whether the laboratory results on nonverbal indicators of deception can be generalized to other real-world situations and to populations other than those who are usually the subjects of laboratory experiments. This chapter considers broad issues of definition with a view toward developing a conceptual framework that provides a basis for studying deception at several levels of analysis. A number of taxonomic formulations of deception are reviewed with special attention paid to differences among cultures and subpopulations in the perpetration and detection of deception. The broadened perspective taken in this chapter allows for consideration of forms of deception other than lying and the practice of deception by organizations or governments as well as by individuals.
Optimizing Individual Performance
After one has been trained—that is, after one has acquired the necessary skills for a given task—there are issues related to performing effectively when it matters. Research in sports psychology suggests that such preparation strategies as mental rehearsal and automating preperformance motor routines may prime or stabilize the cognitive motor programs that underlie skilled performance. The committee's previous review of experimental studies on mental practice confirmed the effectiveness of the technique; less is known about the effectiveness of the technique in applied settings, which is one focus of this chapter. A variety of other techniques that have received attention in the academic sports psychology literature are also discussed. Some of these techniques may help to induce or maintain bodily states that are correlated with high performance. A small number of studies on these strategies have been completed to date and, along with site visits to West Point and the U.S. Olympic Training facilities, form the basis for the committee 's conclusions.
Enhancing Team Performance
In this chapter the committee addresses questions of similarities and differences between individual and group performance. Two questions are of particular interest: What is an optimal mix of training time spent
in developing individual skills and group practice? What modifications are needed for studies of undifferentiated groups to be applied to training of stratified and multifunctional groups? From a practical standpoint, these issues are important because of the variety of Army squads and units whose tasks pose complex training requirements. From a research perspective, these issues call attention to literatures in social psychology and human factors on group versus individual performance and raise questions concerning the applicability of laboratory results to field settings. Although a number of efforts have been made to engineer improvements in group performance—such as brainstorming procedures, Delphi technique, and nominal group technique—surprisingly little evaluation research has been done to determine their effectiveness. Moreover, long-term training of teams has rarely been studied. In this chapter the committee discusses the problems of limited research, difficulties of doing group research in university settings, and the particular contextual considerations for team training in the military. The military is uniquely suited for research on group problems both with respect to the pool of available subjects for such studies and the realistic conditions under which group performance can be observed.
Brener, J., and S.R. Connally 1986 Meditation: Rationales, Experimental Effects, and Methodological Issues. Paper prepared for the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, European Division. Department of Psychology, University of Hull, London, England.
Druckman, D., and J. Swets, eds. 1988 Enhancing Human Performance: Issues, Theories, and Techniques. Committee on Techniques for the Enhancement of Human Performance, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Swets, J.A., and R.A. Bjork 1990 Enhancing human performance: an evaluation of “new age” techniques considered by the U.S. Army. Psychological Science 1(2):85-96.