Firemind persons awareness of their situational awareness, (Sallis, 2013).

Firemind is an online training too aimed at supporting
and enhancing the abilities of fire and rescue personnel. In order to do their job,
they must be able to effectively make decisions, which requires a very good
understanding of the situation (situational awareness). This awareness requires
a good amount of correct information from the situation (Arendtsen, 2017). A
lack in situational awareness can have horrific consequences, especially in
critical occupations. In July 1994, fourteen fire fighters lost their lives as
a result of an overpowering wild fire in the South Canyon Colorado, when it suddenly
changed direction (due to strong winds) (cited in; Sallis et al, 2013). It
could be suggested that a lack of situational awareness led to these firefighters
losing their lives i.e. overlooking weather forecasts.   

 

Situational awareness can be defined as “one’s ability
to remain aware of everything that is happening at the same time, and to
integrate that sense of awareness into what one is doing at the moment”
(Haines, 1992). Situational awareness can be split into two; actual situational
awareness, which is the actual accuracy of a person’s SA compared with the
actual truth. The second is perceived situational awareness, this is the
persons awareness of their own SA, (Sallis, 2013). If actual and perceived situational
awareness are not the same, an individual is likely to make mistakes in a
difficult situation. There are many reasons why this may occur, however, this article
focuses on the brains inability to be able to attend to lots of different
information at the same time, therefore oversights when making decisions is
likely. Kahnemen (1973) states that within the brain there is some sort of
limited capacity central processor. This processor is responsible for analysing
incoming information and integrating it with information already held in
memory.   

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and perceived situational awareness. Actual SA is the
actual accuracy of the achieved SA compared to the actual truth. Whereas perceived
SA is the persons awareness of their situational awareness, (Sallis, 2013). If perceived
SA and actual SA are not the same, an individual is likely to make errors when
faced with a difficult situation. There are many reasons why there may be a gap
between the two. This article focuses on the brains inability to be able to
attend to lots of different information at the same time, therefore oversights
in decision making is a likely outcome. Kahnemen (1973) states that within the
brain there is some sort of limited capacity central processor. This processor
is responsible for analysing incoming information and integrating it with information
already held in memory. Broadbent (1954) puts forward the idea of bottleneck
theory of attention, this states that only a small amount of sensory information
will pass through this bottleneck, and filtering out some sensory information
on the basis of simple characteristics i.e. location of sound, so that most
incoming sensory information receives no conscious processing at all. This is
supported by Engel (1971) who puts forward the idea of attention tunnelling; whereby
if attention is focused on a limited area, stimulus outside that area receives relatively
little attention.

 

 

This leads onto bias which Sallis et al (2013)
identifies as the way that people select certain information from what is
available. Catherwood et al, 2013 identifies an “information bias” whereby
individuals make decisions, but do not use all available information, causing
them to make errors. Under pressure individuals making decisions may show one
of two bias patterns. Arendtsen et al (2016); firstly, they may “zoom in” on a
narrow amount of information, therefore only using a small portion of what is
available to them. Secondly, they may “zoom out” and try to look at a wide
amount of information, but will only be able to do this on a superficial level.

 

These biases may occur for a variety of reasons; however,
the most likely factor is the limitations within the brain and processing
systems. As humans, we do not have to ability to process everything, there has
to be a limit to how much we can process at a particular time. Posner (1980)
refers to this as “attentional spotlight”, whereby each individual has an
attention spotlight which illuminates only a small part of the visual field,
everything within this field receives priority processing, and information
outside it does not receive immediate processing so may be overlooked. This is
a good example of narrow bias; whereby an individual may overlook important
information because they are focussed elsewhere. This would pose a problem for
firefighters, as all information about surroundings must be processed before
decisions can be made, in order to avoid unnecessary dangers i.e. Colorado
wildfire.

            Eriksen
and Murphy (1987) identify this spotlight as a zoom lens which suggests that attention
focusses tightly on a narrow area, or broadened over a wider area. This suggests
that an individual can only pay little attention if they are focussing on
everything around them. If the scope is too wide an individual will treat all
information as equally important, making them just as likely to make errors, as
when using a narrow scope bias.    

Several studies have been conducted
to demonstrate bias within situational awareness; Simons and Levin (1998)
conducted a study in which participants were approached by a by someone asking
for directions on a map. When participants were looking at the map people
carrying a door walked between them, here the original experimenter switches
with someone else. Despite looking completely different only about half of
participants noticed the change. This study exemplifies the ideas put forward by
Posner (1980); Eriksen and Murphy (1987); Engel (1971), that when we are paying
attention to a specific piece of information, all other information around us
has to wait to be processed.  All of the
above studies suggest that humans in general are unable to process large
quantities of information at the same time. This is where a situational
awareness test like Firemind comes in. As stated previously it is used to
train, support and enhance abilities of fire personnel, in order to have a better
level of situational awareness.

 

This study has further looked into the use of Firemind
situational awareness tests (focussing on bias), and comparing those scores
with a stroop test; another method of attention allocation (Stroop, 1935). It
is aiming to investigate whether how well an individual does in a stroop test
can predict how well they perform on a situational awareness test.

 

This study hypothesises that there will be a negative correlation
between time taken to complete the stroop task and bias scores. Those that are
able to allocate attention best in the stroop test (and so are fastest) will
show a more positive (narrow) bias, (rejecting more information).  The null hypothesis states that there will be
no significant correlation between a stroop test and the bias score on a
situational awareness test.