Experimental Interrogation Of Network Simulation Models Of Human Task And Workload Performance In A U.S. Army Tactical Operations Center
This thesis research is involved with the development of new methodologies for enhancing the experimental use of computer simulations to optimize predicted human performance in a work domain. Using a computer simulation called Computer modeling Of Human Operator System Tasks (CoHOST) to test the concepts in this research, methods are developed that are used to establish confidence limits and significance thresholds by having the computer model self report its limits. These methods, along with experimental designs that are tailored to the use of computer simulation instead of human subject based research, are used in the CoHOST simulation to investigate the U.S. Army battalion level command and control work domain during combat conditions and develop recommendations about that domain based on the experimental use of CoHOST with these methodologies. Further, with the realization that analytical results showing strictly numerical data do not always satisfy the need for understanding by those who could most benefit from the analysis, the results are further interpreted in accordance with a team performance model and the CoHOST analysis results are mapped to it according to macroergonomic and team performance concepts.
The CoHOST computer simulation models were developed based on Army needs stemming from the Persian Gulf war. They examined human mental and physical performance capabilities resulting from the introduction of a new command and control vehicle with modernized digital communications systems. Literature searches and background investigations were conducted, and the CoHOST model architecture was developed that was based on a taxonomy of human performance. A computer simulation design was implemented with these taxonomic based descriptors of human performance in the military command and control domain using the commercial programming language MicroSaint™. The original CoHOST development project developed results that suggested that automation alone does not necessarily improve human performance.
The CoHOST models were developed to answer questions about whether human operators could operate effectively in a specified work domain. From an analytical point of view this satisfied queries being made from the developers of that work domain. However, with these completed models available, the intriguing possibility now exists to allow an investigation of how to optimize that work domain to maximize predicted human performance. By developing an appropriate experimental design that allows evaluative conditions to be placed on the simulated human operators in the computer model rather than live human test subjects, a series of computer runs are made to establish test points for identified dependent variables against specified independent variables. With these test points a set of polynomial regression equations are developed that describe the performance characteristics according to these dependent variables of the human operator in the work domain simulated in the model. The resulting regression equations are capable of predicting any outcome the model can produce. The optimum values for the independent variables are then determined that produce the maximum predicted human performance according to the dependent variables.
The conclusions from the CoHOST example in this thesis complement the results of the original CoHOST study with the prediction that the primary attentional focus of the battalion commander during combat operations is on establishing and maintaining an awareness and understanding of the situational picture of the battlefield he is operating upon. Being able to form and sustain an accurate mental model of this domain is the predicted predominant activity and drives his ability to make effective decisions and communicate those decisions to the other members of his team and to elements outside his team.
The potential specific benefit of this research to the Army is twofold. First, the research demonstrates techniques and procedures that can be used without any required modifications to the existing computer simulations that allow significant predictive use to be made of the simulation beyond its original purpose and intent. Second, the use of these techniques with CoHOST is developing conclusions and recommendations from that simulation that Army force developers can use with their continuing efforts to improve and enhance the ability of commanders and other decision makers to perform as new digital communications systems and procedures are producing radical changes to the paradigm that describes the command and control work domain.
The general benefits beyond the Army domain of this research fall into the two areas of methodological improvement of simulation based experimental procedures and in the actual application area of the CoHOST simulation. Tailoring the experimental controls and development of interrogation techniques for the self-reporting and analysis of simulation parameters and thresholds are topics that bode for future study. The CoHOST simulation, while used in this thesis as an example of new and tailored techniques for computer simulation based research, has nevertheless produced conclusions that deviate somewhat from prevailing thought in military command and control. Refinement of this simulation and its use in an even more thorough simulation based study could further address whether the military decision making process itself or contributing factors such as development of mental models for understanding of the situation is or should be the primary focus of team decision makers in the military command and control domain.