Air Force examines cognitive training

An important mission for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Human Effectiveness Directorate is to make warfighters better prepared to fight after they get to the battlefield, a measure called mission effective performance.

“Our job is to provide the tools and strategies to enable warfighters to make better decisions based on experience before they get to combat,” said Col. Daniel Walker, chief of the directorate’s Warfighter Readiness Research Division. “We build the cognitive templates that allow them to take advantage of that knowledge.”

One of the technologies the division is researching is an extension to the computer displays used in aircrew simulators. For most training tasks, a display that can render the equivalent of 20/80 vision acuity is excellent, but for precise target identification, 20/20 acuity is needed, Walker said. His division is working with display manufacturers to get simulator displays closer to that 20/20 threshold.

Another effort is aimed at fitting the training a person receives more closely to their particular requirements, rather than shoehorning them into a standardized training regimen.

It does that by collecting data on how each person reacts to situations in the simulator, in virtual scenarios and by tying the simulator into real aircraft flying on ranges, so they can interact with the pilots flying those planes.

This kind of cognitive training is a rich area for the military to pursue, Walker said, and at least some parts of it are not that different from what goes on now.

“I would say we are on the leading, but not bleeding, edge in bringing this kind of training that’s specific to the tasks people have to accomplish,” he said. “For other areas, such as the cyber domain, that’s something that is totally different, and we are evaluating what’s needed for that now.”

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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