Chapter V. Basic Research
Army Science and Technology Master Plan (ASTMP 1997)


12. Behavioral, Cognitive, and Neural Sciences

a. Strategy

The Army Behavioral, Cognitive, and Neural Sciences (BCNS) program centers on the soldiers in units, and seeks a scientific understanding of the factors that can enhance or diminish human performance.

The research program is executed by two agencies, the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences (ARI) and the Human Research and Engineering Directorate of the Army Research Laboratory (HRED). Duplication of research is prevented through frequent meeting of the two agencies. Inter-Service coordination is effected through Reliance agreements. The research program is evaluated in the TARA review.

b. Major Research Areas

Basic BCNS research addresses two major topic areas:

Cognitive Skills and Abilities— The goal of the cognitive skills and abilities program is to provide data, models, and theories to better understand how individuals learn and process information. An understanding of cognitive processes is essential to the optimal design of training programs and, ultimately, the human-systems interface. Several controllable factors influence the speed at which an individual learns. Other factors can influence the rate at which the trained skills are forgotten (see Figure V-22). Yet another set of factors significantly influences the ability of the individual to transfer skills learned under one set of conditions, such as a simulator, to slightly different conditions, such as real equipment. Results from this research are used to develop effective technologies for training soldiers. Effective training is defined by its cost, the permanence of the training, and its transferability to real equipment under realistic job conditions. The link between ARI and HRED research helps ensure that fielded systems are not only operable but also cost-effective.

Figure V-22. Mean proportion of correct responses as a function of pretest, posttest, and retention for items given no mnemonic, a low mnemonic, or a high mnemonic on the score. The results indicate that the use of mnemonics aids acquisition and retention of information.

The cognitive skills and abilities research thrust is also supported by research conducted at the Morris Brown College Center of Excellence for Research in Training (CERT). A unified program of experimentally based psychological research at that institute seeks to better understand mechanisms that permit individuals to better attend to key stimulus characteristics in the learning situation. Cognitive research will also support personnel selection and human-system interface design.

Overlearning produces reliably better retention of the skill than just training to proficiency. Even after thousands of practice trials, performance continues to improve. The results shown are from a meta-analysis of skill training research (see Figure V23).

Figure V-23. Improvement in skill retention as a function of percent of overlearning.

Perceptual Processes— The goal of the research program in perceptual processes is to better understand those processes, particularly as they impact on the use of head-mounted displays. This research will also support the Army's increasing emphasis on night operations, tele-operations, and the training and battlefield control systems afforded by advances in distributed interactive simulation. A better understanding of perceptual processes is needed if the Army is to effectively exploit advances in optics and infrared technologies. Well-designed human-equipment interfaces have been shown to be the key to permit effective individual utilization of new technologies.

c. Other Research Areas

Basic BCNS research also is concerned with:

Noncognitive Skills and Abilities— The goal of the research program in noncognitive skills and abilities is to address the issue of how various types of stress affect individual functions. Stress can result from high rates of physical or mental effort, physical exhaustion, or emotional response to threat. Although stress is a common response category for different causes, the actual stress responses are different in each case. Research is designed to address each type of stress with the eventual goal of developing effective training to offset the normally negative consequences of stress on behavior.

Leadership— The goal of the leadership research area is to understand the essentials of successful leadership performance and to use that understanding to develop effective training of leadership skills. The history of warfare has many examples of how seemingly less effective forces have prevailed in battle as a result of more effective leadership. Effective leadership includes the ability to manage others, coordinate activities, inspire a group, train individual and team tasks, and make decisions. The effective leader must also consider the environment in which he leads. That environment includes the culture of the organization and the organization's relative role in the general society itself.

d. Benefits of Research

The overall, eventual goal of this research is the optimization of human performance and the human-system interface. The "system" may be a weapon, communication network, other equipment, or a social entity such as in a command and control tactical operations center. Today's challenge is to both train soldiers and design the interface to their systems so that they can operate quickly and effectively under the conditions of the modern battlefield and other missions. The urgency of this research is compounded by the reality of a smaller force and an increased variety of possible missions.

Basic research in BCNS is the foundation upon which technological growth must be based if the Army is to meet its operational human factors, manpower, personnel, training, and system and equipment design requirements. A major objective is understanding cognitive and perceptual processing requirements of emerging military systems. For example, cognitive and perceptual information growth on the digitized battlefield already far outstrips human processing capacity. An effective research-based strategy to this problem is grounded in many of the BCNS domains. Additional knowledge in personnel selection, assignment, training, leadership, and effective interfaces will provide the means for the effective use of soldiers in new command and control structures. In the training area, research in the areas of computerized training, synthetic environments, and maturing artificial intelligence concepts will provide a basis for operating complex systems that route and prioritize battle information. These various research areas feed into the Human-Systems Interface and Manpower, Personnel, and Training technology areas described in Chapter IV.

An outstanding recent accomplishment of BCNS research was the integration of the naturalistic decision making model into the battle command doctrine. Results from this research have also been applied in several other areas by all of the Services and many civilian organizations. The unique environments in which military personnel must function and the extremely high performance levels that they must achieve make Army 6.1 research in the behavioral, cognitive, and social sciences necessary. Clearly, much of this research serves to improve the integration of soldiers with their jobs, units, environment, and equipment. The soldier must not only learn to cope, but to thrive in novel environments while interacting with new technologies. The in-depth understanding of these parameters of human performance is critical to effectively utilizing the growing technological opportunities that the Army is exploiting.

F. Summary

The Army basic research program is an integrated in-house and extramural research program. The in-house laboratory programs are driven by mission needs; the extramural program is chartered to provide a balance between long-term extramural research foci—pursued through Army-funded academic Centers of Excellence and industry-led Federated Laboratories and unanticipated, more forward looking research windows of scientific opportunity pursued through the single investigator program. ARO and the management at the Army's research, development, and engineering organizations deliberate and coordinate in partnership to establish, implement, and meet overall Army research objectives. Despite receiving only a small portion of DoD's basic research budget, the Army derives the maximum return on investment from its research program through its high degree of integration. Figure V-24 depicts how the Scientific Research Areas described in this chapter support the 10 technology areas described in Chapter IV.

The research areas described in the preceding sections of this chapter are dynamic and continuously updated. Programs are reviewed by multi-Service organizations, by Army Battle Lab personnel, by peer reviews, and by coordinating groups established for each of the scientific areas. To illustrate this dynamic nature of the scientific areas, Table V-5 summarizes how certain research areas are receiving new or increasing emphasis and highlights recent accomplishments.

Much of the research supported by the U.S. Army is undertaken by distinguished scientists and engineers at American colleges and universities, as detailed in the Extramural Program section of this chapter. Not only does the Army benefit from the accomplishments of these people but they themselves receive honors bestowed upon them by their peers. Table V-6 summarizes some of the awards received during the past year by the individuals shown for their research sponsored by the U.S. Army.

The Army's science base is an essential foundation for the technology on which the Army's ability to meet future threats depends. Research for the Army is performed by a blend of university and in-house components that are uniquely suited to the Army's special requirements. Because of the fundamental role of the science base in shaping the Army's technological future, the Army is committed to strongly support basic research.

Figure V-24. Impact of Basic Research Areas on the Chapter IV Technology Areas

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Table V-5. Illustrations of Dynamic Nature Research Programs

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Table V-6. Some of the Awards Received During the Past Year by Scientists and Engineers for Research Sponsored by the U.S. Army

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