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Individual differences in cue acquisition and stages of skill development

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posted on 2022-03-28, 21:45 authored by Nadya Christye Yuris
In many operational domains, the utilisation of cues enables operators to recognise and respond rapidly and successfully to changes in the system state. This process is initiated by matching features in the environment with events or objects in memory in the form of cues. Although cue utilisation represents a useful and reliable measure of concurrent performance, it is a construct reliant on associations that have been acquired through previous experience. Typically, this restricts measures of cue utilisation to operational personnel who have acquired a level of experience. For those environments where cue utilisation is necessary, and where the selection of personnel occurs at the initial stages of skill acquisition, an alternative approach is required that evaluates the capacity of the candidate to identify, acquire, and retain cue-based associations in memory. Therefore, the aim of this programme of research was to construct and evaluate a measure of domain-independent cue acquisition and test the validity of the measure in predicting cue-based performance across a range of domains. In Study 1, a series of domain-independent tasks were developed that were designed to examine the predictive validity of different assessments of cue acquisition. Of the five tasks constructed, the Timed-Search Task (TST), incorporating a time constraint and implicit associations, was the only measure that positively predicted subsequent performance on a novel rail control task, in which improved performance is depended upon successful cue acquisition. Based on the outcomes of Study 1, Study 2 was conducted to establish the construct validity of the TST by evaluating its relationship to cue utilisation in the context of general aviation. Individual differences in the TST were related to performance on two of the five tasks that comprised a composite measure of cue utilisation. The results suggested that individual differences in cue acquisition may be associated with the more rudimentary aspects of cue utilisation. Study 3 was designed to evaluate the association between cue acquisition and cue utilisation in a dynamic task that was more complex than rail control. Within the context of motor vehicle driving, higher cue utilisation was associated with fewer driving errors, fixations and saccades, accounting for cue acquisition. Cue acquisition was not associated with overall driving performance. The results suggest that, where cue utilisation significantly impacts performance, the influence of cue acquisition on performance may be restricted to the initial stages of skill acquisition. Study 4 was designed to examine the predictive validity of cue acquisition in a 'real-world' context. Consistent with Study 2, general aviation comprised the testing domain, with pilots completing a flight training exercise and their performance assessed using flight control measures and instructor ratings, accounting for hours of flight experience. The results failed to provide support for an association between the TST and flight performance, although difficulties in the level of experimental control precluded a conclusive assessment. Study 5 was undertaken to test the outcomes of Study 4 using a flight simulation context that offered a degree of experimental control. Licensed pilots flew a simulated flight, during which an engine failure occurred within proximity to an alternate destination. Consistent with the preceding results, cue acquisition was not associated with flight control measures nor was it predictive of landing success, accounting for flight experience. In combination, the results across the five studies suggest that the impact of individual differences in cue acquisition, as measured by the TST, appeared to be limited to the initial learning outcomes associated with novel operations. After the initial acquisition of relevant cues, it was apparent that individual differences in cue acquisition had minimal contribution to domain-specific performance -- summary.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 -- Chapter 2 -- Chapter 3 -- Chapter 4 -- Chapter 5 -- Chapter 6 -- Chapter 7 -- Chapter 8 -- Chapter 9 -- Appendices


Include bibliographic references Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Mark Wiggins


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