DOES COGNITIVE LOAD ALTER TARGET ACQUISITION AND ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN TACTICAL SHOOTERS?
PURPOSE: The current study aimed to determine the effects of cognitive load on shooting performance during a tactical engagement. Shooting performance was determined by measuring target acquisition time, time for point of aim to meet visual gaze, and time between target acquisition and engagement. With increased cognitive load, subjects should require longer time for accurate target acquisition, as demonstrated by increased times for target acquisition, meeting visual gaze, and threat engagement. METHODS: This study evaluated 12 novice (ROTC cadets) and 8 expert (SWAT team members) tactical shooters ranging from the age of 18-50 years old. Subjects were asked to confront a series of three target types in three different situations. Each condition consisted of a different number and type of targets, resulting in different cognitive loads. The low cognitive load (LCL) condition consisted of one threat target, the medium cognitive load (MCL) condition consisted of one threat and two bystander targets, and the high cognitive load (HCL) condition consisted of one threat target and five bystander targets. Subjects completed the shooting conditions individually, three times each, with the order of situations encountered randomly assigned. RESULTS: There was a significant interaction effect between experience and cognitive load for target acquisition and engagement. Acquisition time for the novice shooters increased from LCL to HCL conditions (0.281±0.102s, 0.616±0.061s, 1.167±0.153s, p=0.001). Acquisition time for the experienced shooters increased from LCL to MCL, and then decreased from MCL to HCL (0.761±0.128s, 0.930±0.076s, 0.794±0.192s, p=0.001). Engagement times for the novice shooters decreased from the LCL to MCL condition, and increased from the MCL to HCL condition (0.934±0.103s, 0.762±0.082s, 0.873±0.127s, p= 0.001). Experienced shooter engagement times increased from the LCL to MCL condition, and the MCL to HCL condition (0.736±0.129s, 0.750±0.103s, 1.215±0.159s, p=0.010). The experienced shooters also had a significantly higher percentage of threat hits (100+ 0.0% vs. 78.73+ 9.33%, p=0.046) and lower number of trace backs (glances away from the threat target) (p=0.005), compared to novice shooters in the HCL condition. CONCLUSION: Increases in cognitive load resulted in greater target acquisition times of novice shooters during tactical shooting exercises. In the HCL condition, experienced shooters performed more effectively at target discrimination and engagement. Overall, experienced shooters performed more effectively at target recognition, threat analysis, and accurate target engagement than novice subjects.
Fox, A.; Bang, N.; DeRuyter, M.; Ness, C.; and Higginson, B.
"DOES COGNITIVE LOAD ALTER TARGET ACQUISITION AND ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN TACTICAL SHOOTERS?,"
International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings: Vol. 8:
5, Article 75.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijesab/vol8/iss5/75