Findings and Conclusions
In this chapter we present key findings and conclusions for each of the topics investigated. Each conclusion derives from a review and evaluation of literature on that topic. Together, the various lines of research covered in this report reveal the complexity of the problems involved in enhancing human performance. At the same time, the research also clearly indicates approaches that can improve training and guide the preperformance preparation of teams and individuals. The research also helps illuminate special performance issues, such as changing one's mental states, detecting deception, and developing the careers of individuals in large organizations.
Most of the committee's conclusions are summaries derived directly from research findings; others however, are suggestions for research where we need to know more or are recommendations for actions based on what we do know.
Optimizing Long-Term Retention and Transfer
Training procedures are typically evaluated, explicitly or implicitly, by how rapidly they bring the learner to some criterion level of performance. Performance during training, however, is often a poor index of the learner's level of learning and understanding. Training programs should be evaluated not by performance during training but, rather, by the extent to which those programs support the learner 's long-term post-training performance in real-world contexts.
Measuring Learning and Performance Two important dimensions of posttraining performance are the ability to resist forgetting and interference over periods of disuse of a given skill and the ability to generalize training to contexts and tasks that differ in their surface characteristics from the training contexts or tasks. Depending on the relative priorities given to those two dimensions of posttraining performance, the optimal package of training components will differ somewhat. One general principle, however, is that tests of a learner's progress during training should, as much as possible, measure performance as it will be measured on the posttraining task(s) in the posttraining setting(s).
Retention Given posttraining tasks and conditions that are identical or similar to the training tasks and conditions, posttraining performance is enhanced as the level of original learning is increased. That level can be increased by putting greater demands on the learner—making the criterion of mastery more difficult, for example, or requiring supplementary (postmastery) practice after the criterion has been reached. Introducing variations in the conditions and sequencing of practice, the immediate consequence of which is to degrade performance, may be a particularly promising way to increase the level of original learning, and, hence, posttraining retention.
Skills that demand little attention or effort to perform are regarded as automatic; the more automatic a given skill, the higher the likelihood that the skill can be retained over nonuse periods without refresher training. Certain types of procedural tasks, however, tend to be easily forgotten, especially when their components have a low degree of internal organization or cohesiveness. The rate of forgetting of procedural tasks is a function of the number of steps needed to perform the task, and the steps most likely to be forgotten are those not cued by the equipment, environment, or preceding steps.
Several instructional strategies to enhance the retention and transfer of procedural tasks can be identified: distributing rather than massing practice time; relating the knowledge to be learned to the relevant knowledge learners already have in memory; teaching techniques (e.g., mnemonics) that learners can use to provide their own elaborations; having the training regimen require repeated use of the knowledge to be learned; and providing for and encouraging the use and elaboration of acquired knowledge and skill during nonuse periods. In general, a learner should be an active participant, not a passive observer, during the training process.
However well designed the initial training, refresher training may still be needed during prolonged posttraining periods of disuse in order to maintain a given level of knowledge and skill. Refresher training can, however, become less frequent over time, and the training needs of
retrainees are also different in kind from those of new trainees; relatively efficient, cost-effective techniques can be used to maintain a given level of original learning in retrainees.
Transfer of Training In general, the similarity of goals and cognitive processing between training and transfer tasks is a critical factor in enhancing transfer. The learner, therefore, should be challenged by means of manipulation of practice variables, such as feedback, contextual (or intratask) interference, and number and variability of examples. These manipulations, which may impair performance in the short term, not only help the learner to process the learning task more deeply, but suggest appropriate processes for transfer, particularly to related but distinct posttraining tasks.
As an instructional method, the modeling of complex cognitive skills poses special problems. The observable behavior of an expert reveals little of the expert's underlying cognitive processes. By observing an expert, a student can learn a set of executable actions that are linked to a corresponding set of specific conditions. But such learning does not typically result in the ability to generalize beyond those specific conditions or to understand the principles behind the actions.
It is widely recognized that instruction should proceed by integrating new knowledge with old knowledge, but eliciting and representing the knowledge of the tutor and the student are difficult problems. However, improved methods of eliciting knowledge from experts and characterizing the present state of a learner may make a promising training approach for modeling expertise, especially in contexts in which a computer can be used as an interactive tool. New learning techniques that involve active participation by a learner, such as self-explanations, self-questioning, and self-monitoring, are promising avenues for further research and may even be candidates for experimental programs at this time.
The use of computers to deliver instruction, as well as to diagnose student progress, is an important technological advance in and out of the classroom. To be maximally effective, however, a training program must include a sophisticated model of the student, which permits a match between the computer's “understanding” and the student's understanding. Such a match makes possible the tailoring of the individualized branching, diagnosis, and correction of misconceptions by each student.
Career Planning Despite the widespread popularity of many career
counseling techniques, which include self-assessment instruments, the decisions to use them are rarely based on research results attesting to their effectiveness. The committee recommends that such decisions be made within the context of a planned, systematic, and organization-wide approach to career development, for the Army as well as any other large, complex organization. In addition to such career planning, evaluations should be made of the cost-effectiveness of alternative career intervention activities with regard to the timing of the intervention and the methods used by the intervenors.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator At this time there is not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in career counseling programs. Much of the current evidence is based on inadequate methodologies. Better evaluation studies, conducted according to rigorous methodological standards, are recommended. One type of evaluation would compare “successful” and “unsuccessful” careers over the long term. Positive results obtained from these studies, if replicated with different samples, could justify use of this instrument in career counseling programs. Other self-assessment instruments currently in use or contemplated for use in counseling programs should also be subjected to the same rigorous evaluation.
Research on the effects of guided discussion, such as the discussions held on feedback from the MBTI or other self-assessment instruments, is recommended. Such research should distinguish between subjective reactions to the experience and observed effects on subsequent actions and career performance.
ALTERING MENTAL STATES
The committee's review of the available research literature leads to our conclusion that, at this time, there is neither theoretical foundation nor experimental evidence to support claims that subliminal self-help tapes enhance human performance. Several key considerations underlie this conclusion.
Although recent research suggests that stimuli perceived in the absence of conscious awareness may have short-term effects on the performance of relatively simple tasks under controlled laboratory conditions (such as color naming or lexical decision), this research cannot be construed as evidence that long-term changes in complex actions, cognitions, or emotions—such as smoking, self-confidence, or depression —can be effected through exposure to subliminal suggestions under such varied real-life circumstances as reading, relaxing, or even sleeping.
Some experiments have found that some commercially available self-help audiotapes contain masked messages that are both subjectively imperceptible and objectively undetectable; as such, these tapes do not meet the minimum stimulus condition for demonstrating subliminal perception. Although some self-help audiotapes now available on the marketplace may satisfy this minimum condition, the responsibility for identifying those products should rest, at least initially, with their proponents. If detectable messages are found, controlled studies of their effects could be undertaken.
Several sociopsychological phenomena, including effort justification and expectancy or placebo effects, may contribute to an erroneous judgment that self-help products are effective, even in the absence of any actual improvements in emotion, appearance, attitude, or any other physical or psychological quality.
In scientifically controlled studies, meditation does not reduce arousal any more than does simply resting quietly. In many studies, the combined use of various relaxation-training techniques precludes attributing positive effects to meditation by itself. Lifestyle changes to reduce conflict are also apparently instrumental, a sensible enough conclusion and one that is consistent with the growing recognition that successful interventions must usually be multifaceted.
The philosophical context for most meditation practices is important. It may be that meditation and relaxation—including perhaps relaxation achieved with certain forms of biofeedback—effect cognitive change, such as an enhanced sense of self-efficacy and a belief that one can control his or her stress reactions.
A particular challenge to those who advocate meditation is whether benefits generalize to everyday situations or to conditions of special challenge. Does the person take time out during the day to meditate, or is there some more enduring, systemic reduction in arousal level that does not require conscious attention to practice? Perhaps changes are brought about by the person's lowered reactivity to challenge, and these positive social-environmental shifts present the individual with a less stressful environment. We do not believe that data exist to answer this question.
The highly publicized feats of some yogis who can remain buried for many hours without suffocating are probably due to confidence in their ability to slow their respiration rate, as well as faith that they can survive the ordeal if only they do not panic. Consistent with findings from the committee's earlier report, perceived control and predictability serve to reduce anxiety.
The assertion that the proper application of Kundalini Yoga can help develop “the soldier-saint” in whom is instilled the desire and superhuman ability to excel in the art of war is not supported by scientific evidence.
Research on pain control suggests that people can be taught nonpharmacological ways to cope with physical pain. Central to the current understanding of pain is the role of cognitive factors. A person's understanding of the physiological events that underlie pain can have a profound effect on whether he or she actually experiences pain.
Procedures known to be useful for reducing stress—such as relaxation, providing information about what to expect, and enhancing a person's sense of control—also reduce pain because stress increases a person 's experience of pain. Distraction is also an effective strategy for coping with pain. And suggestions given under hypnosis can help people cope with pain, for example, imagining that an affected limb is not really a part of them. Chronic pain is best managed by identifying and controlling psychological perpetuating factors. In most cases this would involve combining pure behavior-learning approaches with other cognitive-behavioral and relaxation interventions.
Hiding and Detecting Deception
A number of nonverbal behaviors have been found to be associated with deception. Particularly revealing are body movements and tone of voice changes, although a number of other behaviors have also been shown to be indicators of deception in certain situations. Nonverbal behaviors reflect feelings or emotions more directly than they reflect specific intentions to deceive. Emotions—psychological states—can be considered as intervening variables, relating to observed behaviors and to inferred intentions.
Motivated liars are easier to detect than nonmotivated liars. When emotionality is high, as in the case of tasks with high stakes associated with outcomes, nonverbal behaviors can be especially revealing. The revealing behaviors are likely to be those in the liar's unattended channels, which are “leaked” as a result of behavioral inhibition or rigidity.
Detectors, both amateurs and experts, are generally inaccurate despite high levels of confidence in their judgments. Neither feedback nor enhanced suspiciousness seems to improve accuracy. However, training detectors and providing them with a plan for processing information about relevant cues does seem to increase accuracy of detection.
Techniques developed for laboratory research are useful in studying deception. They provide a structured and systematic approach to analysis germane to detecting deception in a variety of situations. The techniques are especially useful to an analyst who has access to videotaped interactions or who can interact with a subject over long periods of time. The videotaped exchanges can be replayed for details easily overlooked in the course of an ongoing conversation. They can also be used to train individuals to code nonverbal behavior for leakage clues.
A Broad Concept of Deception
Detection of deception depends on leaked cues, which in turn depend on the psychological state of the deceiver, that is, whether it reflects guilt. Detection of deception would be improved if one could anticipate the sorts of scenarios that constitute social transgression or a guilt-producing state for individuals. Although some components of emotional expression may be universal, many other expressions are influenced by culture and context. Research on the folk psychology of deception and on the prototypical structure of lying provide examples of methods for assessing perceptions of socially unacceptable deceptions within cultural groups. With suitable refinements, these methods can be used to discover those scenarios and deceptive acts that might induce leakage for particular cultures and individuals.
Optimizing Individual Performance
A large literature in sports psychology reports progress in identifying the psychological and physiological conditions for improved performance on a wide variety of tasks. Numerous experiments provide some basis for distinguishing between effective and ineffective preperformance interventions.
Mental Health and Athletic Success The mental health model has produced inconsistent results in differentiating successful and less successful athletes in terms of individual mood scales. However, measures of global mood have been effective in distinguishing when athletes are experiencing a psychologically unhealthy, overtrained state.
Physical Versus Mental Practice If the goal is to maximize performance in the shortest amount of time, physical practice is superior to mental practice. However, if nonphysical practice time is available or if a
person cannot physically practice, then the small effects due to mental practice can be useful for facilitating performance and for better retention.
Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions The effects of cognitive-behavioral interventions—such as relaxation, imagery, mental preparation strategies, skill modeling, and direct attempts to alter cognition—are small to moderate. They will be enhanced if the treatments emphasize: multiple components (e.g., relaxation, modeling, imagery, cognitive restructuring); direct administration by an investigator or therapist (rather than a tape); many sessions; people who have concentration problems; and tasks that can be objectively scored.
Preperformance Preparation In skills for which the environmental conditions are constant (e.g., archery), an individually designed preperformance routine with multiple components (i.e, preparation rituals) has been shown to facilitate performance. In sports that involve aiming (e.g., rifle shooting), better performers have a greater cardiac deceleration within 3-5 seconds of executing a motor response, and better performances are associated with a moderate increase above baseline in alpha activity in the left hemisphere of the brain with little or no change in the right hemisphere. However, too great an increase in left hemisphere alpha is associated with worse shots. Such electrophysiological patterns as heart rate deceleration and EEG asymmetries, which are related to performance, can be used during the preparatory period (3-5 seconds before response execution) to assist in determining the efficacy of preperformance routines.
Exercise and Stress Evidence shows that aerobic exercise results in quicker recovery from psychosocial stressors than the absence of such exercise.
Neuroscience and Peak Performance Further understanding of the bases for performance is likely to come from ongoing research in neuroscience and on “peak performance. ” Recent neuroscientific studies using imaging techniques have shown that even simple motor processes have complex neurophysiological correlates. Research on high performance behavior has made progress in identifying the affective, attentional, and cognitive states associated with such behavior.
Enhancing Team Performance
Many problems and issues in team performance are potentially answerable by research, but research on group structure and function, once
a mainstay in social psychology, is not now a major focus of the work. Moreover, most of these studies are of unstratified groups, making them less relevant for real-world problems involving stratified groups and command structures.
Research on group problem solving indicates that teams perform at suboptimal levels. While a number of techniques (e.g., the Delphi technique, nominal group technique) have been used to improve the group process and outcomes, few of these interventions have been evaluated systematically.
The research on group processes has focused in recent years on decision making with an emphasis on jury-like studies. Some of this is directly relevant to group training, but it leaves unaddressed many of the group performance questions.
The strategy of studying real groups in actual working conditions has contributed to the understanding of the groups studied, but the findings have proven difficult to generalize.
Some of the difficulties of experimentation on group performance are logistic. It is difficult to find a suitable number of comparable groups that remain stable over time to compare the effects of experimental differences on their training and performance. Large numbers of comparable groups do exist in the Army and other military services, and they provide the possible experimental subjects and conditions for effective study of team training, decision making, and performance. Since the military recruits young people who are comparable to the entering U.S. labor force, the results of such group studies may also have applicability to industrial and commercial settings.