Apr 302003
Authors: Bryce Chapman

Studies being performed by CSU scientists may help prevent future wartime deaths similar to those occurring with the war in Iraq.

The studies, which are being funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Navy with $1.4 million, examine individuals’ minds to determine how decision-making could be more efficient under stressful situations.

“We will look at ways people remember information more reliably and with less effort. As a result, we hope we can find ways to help novices behave more like experts and apply the correct information under pressure and in time-sensitive environments,” said C.A.P. Smith, co-investigator of the research and assistant professor of computer information systems.

Smith, a former U.S. Navy Scientist, said these studies could lead to a reduction in accident-related deaths during wartime.

“In Iraq people were killed because of mistakes that occurred during high-stress times,” Smith said. “This research could reduce those sort of errors and make our soldiers safer.”

By using technology to observe the size of an individuals’ pupil and monitor blood flow and brain activities, the researchers hope to understand when an individual’s brain is cognitively overloaded.

“Because we know that people do not work as efficiently when they are stressed. We can see by technology when they are becoming overloaded and then reduce the workload,” Smith said.

In the study supported by the Office of Naval Research, team interaction without verbal communication is the focus, but the prospect of reducing unnecessary casualties during wartime remains.

“During war, it is crucial to communicate between team members and, since radio lines are becoming crowded and inaccessible at times, voice communication is difficult,” said Stephen Hayne, co-investigator of the study and associate professor of computer information systems. “By building a computer system that allows people to work together by communicating what they see nonverbally, team members will still be able to correspond without taking the time to actually speak and listen to other members of the team.”

Select psychology and computer information systems junior and senior undergraduate students have been taking part in the studies.

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