Improved testing for tomorrow’s pilots – News Center

Tuesday September 13, 2022 • Linsey Retcofsky:
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The United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has launched a collaborative research agreement with a cognitive psychologist from the University of Texas at Arlington to explore new tests and approaches that will eliminate bias and improve military aptitude testing .

Matthew Robison, an assistant professor of psychology, is the principal investigator on the nearly $700,000 three-year contract. His research will evaluate potential new measures for the Aviation Selection Test Battery and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, two aptitude tests the military uses to screen people for various occupations, including those of aviation.

The military is continually looking for ways to expand the representation of minorities and women in different jobs, while maintaining or improving its ability to predict who will succeed in those jobs.

Robison, whose research examines the human cognitive system from various angles, will propose new test measures that use a combination of techniques, including examining individual differences, psychophysiology and behavioral experiments. Physiological measurements will include eye tracking, pupillometry, and observation of electrical activity in the brain.

Pupillometry, the measurement of fluctuations in pupil diameter in response to stimuli, can reveal an individual’s peak cognitive workload capacity and predict a person’s working memory capacity and fluid intelligence. A multiple object tracking task, for example, could give recruiters a reliable measure of a person’s ability to monitor multiple input streams as they dynamically change, Robison said.

Imagine the cup shuffling trick, where a ball is hidden under one of three cups which are moved across a surface until the ball is deemed lost. Rather than a ball, there would be 4 or 5 objects to track, indicating how much information an individual can process simultaneously.

Robison said the new measures would potentially make military selection and classification tests harder to prepare for.

“As you can imagine, physiological measurements are much more difficult to simulate than knowledge-based measurements, where a person can study the information in advance,” Robison said. “Physiological measurements will help debias the test and make it a more valid predictor of an individual’s ability to handle demanding, high-stress work.”

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