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Vanya
July 28, 2009, 02:37 PM
This article (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/28/health/research/28brain.html?th&emc=th) has some interesting information on what factors contribute to "situational awareness," loosely defined as the ability to perceive threats. Some unsurprising findings, such as that training helps, and stress and anxiety hurt... but it seems there are big individual differences in things like the visual ability to detect little things that are out of whack, and the ability to pay attention to an emotional response to things being out of whack -- given that the emotional response may occur before you're consciously aware that something is wrong...

Just an excerpt:
In Battle, Hunches Prove to Be Valuable
New York Times, 27 July '09
"In war, anxiety can run as high as the Iraqi heat, and neuroscientists say that the most perceptive, observant brain on earth will not pick up subtle clues if it is overwhelmed by stress.

"In the Army study of I.E.D. detection, researchers found that troops who were good at spotting bombs in simulations tended to think of themselves as predators, not prey. That frame of mind by itself may work to reduce anxiety, experts say.

"The brains of elite troops also appear to register perceived threats in a different way from the average enlistee, said Dr. Martin P. Paulus, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Diego, and the V.A. San Diego Healthcare System. At the sight of angry faces, members of the Navy Seals show significantly higher activation in the insula than regular soldiers, according to a just-completed study.

"'The big question is whether these differences perceiving threat are natural, or due to training,' Dr. Paulus said."


Umm, well, they probably involve both... hate folks who think everything's either/or....

Kyo
July 28, 2009, 03:11 PM
i think its both. the confidence thing helps a crap ton imo. but training raises confidence. its a thin line

hogdogs
July 28, 2009, 03:12 PM
"In the Army study of I.E.D. detection, researchers found that troops who were good at spotting bombs in simulations tended to think of themselves as predators, not prey. That frame of mind by itself may work to reduce anxiety, experts say.
Funny! I never been in the military, I have an excellent "close proximity" SA (vision loss shortened SA range) and I consider my self the APEX PREDATOR no matter where I am at... Not a constant thought but I have often noted the folks with no clue of their surrondings thinking... They are dang lucky I ain't really hungry right now.:D
It was the eradication of venomous snakes that caused the typical loss of situational awareness!!! The proof I am right is the low number of snake bit urbanites! :eek: If folks had to face risk with every step they would be much more aware... Unfortunately some of us realize this risk is most likely going to be from a human who is preying upon the innocent folks...
Brent

booker_t
July 29, 2009, 09:20 AM
I agree, to make it either/or is a poor way to approach the question.

Some people are better athletes than others, some better chess players, and some better soldiers. While there's some overlap between the skills of all three, the best chess player isn't going to be the best soldier, and the most fit/sharp soldier isn't going to be the best athlete. There's a set of genetic components, training, and mental state that all contribute to one's success in a particular field.

Likewise, there's a reason people who make it to be Navy SEALs do so. They have a particular set of qualities that make the challenge a little less intimidating than for those who drop out. That isn't to say that people who train harder than anybody else and put themselves in a mental state only focused on becoming a SEAL can't make it through as well. There's an old sports saying, that "hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."

To put it another way, somebody with a great set of genetics to start is going to benefit more from specialized training than somebody whose baseline is lower. A person with excellent memory, some creativity, patience and spacial visualization is likely to be a better chess player naturally than somebody with poor memory, although probably not much better. With coaching, I imagine the skilled person will make significantly more progress than the non-skilled.

Another piece of this is learning styles. Different people learn different ways. It may be that people who become SEALs all learn in similar ways, and so their training is extremely effective. The aggregate of Enlisted, NCOs and junior Officers learn in all sorts of different ways and the training isn't directed towards those learning styles, so the training isn't as effective as it could be if training was tailored to individual soldiers' strengths.

Do they still teach the OODA Loop? Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, by Col. John Boyd.

Vanya
July 29, 2009, 10:18 AM
It was the eradication of venomous snakes that caused the typical loss of situational awareness!!! The proof I am right is the low number of snake bit urbanites! If folks had to face risk with every step they would be much more aware... Unfortunately some of us realize this risk is most likely going to be from a human who is preying upon the innocent folks...

:D Yep, the potential for snakes does, as they say, concentrate the mind. I grew up in rattlesnake country, and by the time I was old enough to step foot outside the house on my own, I knew not to put my hands/feet anywhere I couldn't see -- up on a ledge, over a log, whatever -- I knew to LOOK FIRST by the time I was five or so.

I'm always struck, when I get into the back country, by the way my "filters" go down. Everything is potentially relevant if I'm canoeing somewhere remote, for example: the terrain, the sky, the sound of the river, and I'm pretty much open to all of it, so that I will notice the anomaly that might be a life-saver. Even more so out hunting, obviously, although I tend to be paying more attention to the "micro" level of things than to the "macro" stuff.

But the thing about urban environments is that you have to spend so much energy filtering stuff that's irrelevant: advertising, traffic noise, general ugliness, not to mention all those people. And once you start "filtering" people -- that whole don't-make-eye-contact, don't-acknowledge-they-exist thing -- it gets harder to notice who's acting funny...

I guess that's one reason so many folks, especially city ones, these days, have to be plugged into some electronic gadget all the time -- the iPod or whatever does the filtering for them. Environment? What environment? They're in their own little world...

Brian Pfleuger
July 29, 2009, 11:42 AM
But the thing about urban environments is that you have to spend so much energy filtering stuff that's irrelevant: advertising, traffic noise, general ugliness, not to mention all those people. And once you start "filtering" people -- that whole don't-make-eye-contact, don't-acknowledge-they-exist thing -- it gets harder to notice who's acting funny...

Interesting theory there.... I'll bet there's something to that.

Like most everything, I'd say there a solid mixture of environment and "wiring". Just like some people have a better sense than others of when someone is lying or even just not a "good person", even when there are no obvious "reasons".

For example, there have been three people in my entire life, with whom I have spent a considerable amount of time, that give me that "something's not right" feeling. Two of the three have eventually confirmed my gut feeling and the jury's still out on number 3, but you can bet I'm careful.

Vanya
July 29, 2009, 02:18 PM
For example, there have been three people in my entire life, with whom I have spent a considerable amount of time, that give me that "something's not right" feeling. Two of the three have eventually confirmed my gut feeling and the jury's still out on number 3, but you can bet I'm careful.
Huh.

Peetza, can you say more about that? What kind of "not right" were these folks? Was the gut feeling something you had right away about them? Do you have a sense of what cues you were picking up?

I'm curious because one of the things I found most interesting in that article was the implication that a hunch, a gut feeling, was a reaction to cues that produced an emotional, sort of pre-cognitive response -- and that people differ in how fast they're able to notice that they're reacting emotionally to cues they haven't yet picked up at a conscious level. Which sounds sort of obvious when you say it, but it would be neat to have a factual, physiological understanding of something like "having a sixth sense for danger."

And I bet that having a "sixth sense" for people or for situations might be two different abilities -- someone might have one or the other to a higher degree...

Brian Pfleuger
July 29, 2009, 02:26 PM
Peetza, can you say more about that? What kind of "not right" were these folks? Was the gut feeling something you had right away about them? Do you have a sense of what cues you were picking up?

They were people who had the appearance and demeanor of being "good" people. They turned out to be "wolves in sheep's clothing", so to speak. I mean, we're not talking serial killers, just basically nasty people out to make themselves look like the good guy, no matter if it means hurting or destroying other people.

Yes, the feeling I had about all 3 of them was immediate but I have no idea why. It's like I can just look at them and KNOW that they are not what they are trying to look like they are, even though every body else seems to think that those same people are "OK".

This is not to say that there haven't been people who were the same way that I DIDN'T have that feeling about but when I have had that feeling, I have not been wrong yet, with one still pending.

MLeake
July 29, 2009, 02:32 PM
... have traditionally been pretty good predictors of character, in my experience.

Some of them love everybody, and some don't like anybody, but the better ones tend to be amazingly good judges of character.

For that matter, so do horses.

I wonder how much a regular interaction with animals helps humans develop their own intuitions?

Hornett
July 29, 2009, 02:33 PM
I'm always struck:eek: Don't say that right after talking about rattlesnakes. :eek: ;)

I find I am more aware when I am in the woods.
I also think I am far more aware of surroundings than my non hunting friends.

I have been practicing situational awareness since being on this board, but it is difficult with the everyday drone of life.
Getting away and into the outdoors has to be a awareness heightener.

booker_t
July 29, 2009, 03:24 PM
but it is difficult with the everyday drone of life. Getting away and into the outdoors has to be a awareness heightener.

I'd argue it's the other way around.

Practicing layups all day doesn't improve your jump shot. As a city guy who spends significant time in the country and around country people, being fully aware in crowded cities, surrounded by noise, is a thrill for me. Plug in your iPod and it is even harder, but having that iPod in just helps you blend even more. Every so often in DC, NYC, other cities, I'll notice other people who are just as aware of the overall scene as I am, among a crowd of people wearing virtual blinders.

It's fascinating, because when you go to the country it's not always a complete reversal. Some people are alert, some are oblivious. People are people regardless of their environment, it just manifests differently.

Kyo
July 29, 2009, 03:28 PM
sixth sense exists. Its called the danger sense, fear, self preservation, bad feelings, whatever else you want to call it. It is there to make sure you are ok. It is genetically put into you from your parents, and is also a learned behavior throughout your life.
Perfect example is someone who has been T-boned before. That person will look a few more times before they go because of that self preservation and experience.
Likewise a person who just has a bad feeling and then something bad actually happens, that is a warning sign for the same reason. Depends on how you look at it

ChapNelson
July 29, 2009, 03:48 PM
Do they still teach the OODA Loop? Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, by Col. John Boyd.

Yep, although fewer and fewer first term service members are able to grasp it than back in the old days when I was a SNCO. LtCol Grossman has had a good impact with his "sheepdog" analogies in mental hardening. Just finished up 2nd tour to OIF with a Marine Infantry BN (now on a shore tour). We've used a lot of different techniques to develop mental hardeness in our folks, and frankly there is anecdotal evidence that this generation is less equipped to think like a sheepdog, so the training has to drop to a different level. High rates of prior medication for mental/behavioral health are a factor. Lots of social/familial factors.

If you follow Grossman's line of reasoning, 98% of people are sheep, 1% are sheepdogs, and 1% are wolves. I'd say my experience would generally support those proportions. Lots of wolves are making it through the recruiting process these days; I helped two sociopaths out of the Marine Corps in one month last year.

booker_t
July 29, 2009, 03:51 PM
Kyo, there is a difference between having a feeling and something being a sense.

Fear is a feeling you have, excited by various stimuli both internal and external. Fear can manifest itself in many ways, from typical fight or flight response, to a complete inability to act or think rationally. Having a "bad feeling" or taking extra precaution as a result of past experience is not a sense, it is merely a response to stimuli.

That being said, the compound product of experience, your five senses, and fear, may result in feelings often referred to as gut instinct, a hunch, a sixth sense, or otherwise. This is not a sense in and of itself, however, it is a very valid (typically) human response that allows your brain to convey one simple message that has been distilled down from a plethora of experiences and feelings. That singular message (your gut) allows you to assess a situation, think clearly and act quickly and decisively without being bogged down by recalling and analyzing tons of memory data.

Glenn E. Meyer
July 29, 2009, 03:56 PM
What we are talking about is learning cues that you can pick up pre-attentively. Meaning you don't have to deliberately concentrate to detect the presence of whatever it is. It could be danger or the ability of an affineur to know when the Appenzeller is ripe.

With danger cues - you have a fast circuit that runs through the amygdala to activate emergency responses, before conscious apprehension. That's what we call your gut. Your real gut only contributes when it decides to poop in your pants.

Items can reach this level of process by being genetically preprogrammed or thorough learning and reps.

No special secret sense - just using what you got with training. This research comes out of the selective attention literature which was always related to practical applications, esp. in emergency and military situations.

Three cheers for cognitive psychology!

Vanya
July 29, 2009, 03:57 PM
Dogs...
... have traditionally been pretty good predictors of character, in my experience.
Excellent point. Mine comes to work with me, and the few times I've had someone come into the shop who's given me a bad feeling, she's reacted the same way -- and normally she's eager to greet people. When she doesn't react well to someone, I pay attention.

One question this raises for me is what role sense of smell might play in some of this, especially as it relates to people? We say casually, "Something doesn't smell right," and I wonder if it can literally be true with people. If so, it's another cue we'd be likely to notice at a less-than-conscious level, I think. And I wonder if it's trainable, and how you'd do that...

What we are talking about is learning cues that you can pick up pre-attentively. Meaning you don't have to deliberately concentrate to detect the presence of whatever it is. It could be danger or the ability of an affineur to know when the Appenzeller is ripe.
Yes, exactly. And the interesting question is how much it is trainable, and how you go about it. One can also conclude from the research described in the article that one reason realistic training is so important is that it's necessary to overcome, through repetition and desensitization, the generalized stress responses which impair your ability to perceive things on that pre-attentive level.

Glenn E. Meyer
July 29, 2009, 03:59 PM
While training smell isn't my thing - the level of processing is also called: automaticity. How you get there is by training and reps and training and reps. Also mental imaging of the responses helps when you aren't actually do it.

Vanya
July 29, 2009, 04:18 PM
And as long as we're getting into the neural underpinnings of cognition, or whatever it is we're talking about, there's also research showing that what we think of as "the present moment" is actually integrated, by our brains, over about three seconds' worth of sensory inputs -- which goes another little way toward explaining how we're able (on a good day, perhaps, and with training ;)) to react to things "before we're aware of them."

Dragon55
July 29, 2009, 04:22 PM
You do have a 6th sense. My grandmother always told me pay attention to it. All of us have been in situations or places that just didn't feel right. That's because there was something that was not right.

I'm not sure how it applies to this discussion in regards to survival but some of us also have another innate skill. I'm constantly spotting wildlife while driving ... groundhogs, rabbits, deer, etc. It blows my mind. I have stopped the car so I can point them out.

booker_t
July 29, 2009, 04:51 PM
I'm constantly spotting wildlife too... hookers, drug dealers, gangbangers and vagrants.

But, unlike you, I'm not stopping the car.

Glenn E. Meyer
July 30, 2009, 09:57 AM
Vanya - there's a large training literature on how to give people these abilities. You are correct - they clearly point out that realistic training gives people automatic schema for emergencies. They find it in fire training, piloting, military, etc.

It's not mystical or ESP or the Force - just cog. sci. !!

No sixth sense based on the unknown - just trained use of what we have. For example, it was figured out how outfielders catch baseballs hit to them. Is that mystical?

Vanya
July 30, 2009, 10:52 AM
Vanya - there's a large training literature on how to give people these abilities. You are correct - they clearly point out that realistic training gives people automatic schema for emergencies. They find it in fire training, piloting, military, etc.
Yes, of course there is... but what I'm also trying to point out is that having "automatic schema for emergencies," which is largely a matter of training responses -- as you put it, "thorough learning and reps" -- is just one part of a picture which ought, for civilians, to include training in everyday perceptual skills, in much the same way that drivers can be trained in "attention-paying" behaviors like keeping their eyes moving, scanning well ahead on the road, etc. Many (most?) people don't choose to train as if they lived in a war zone, nor want to meet the world with that mindset; but there are specific "attention-paying" abilities and skills which can be cultivated in order to build an effective everyday level of situational awareness...
It's not mystical or ESP or the Force - just cog. sci. !!

No sixth sense based on the unknown - just trained use of what we have. For example, it was figured out how outfielders catch baseballs hit to them. Is that mystical?
Good grief! Of course it isn't. I'm a bit bewildered that you'd read anything of the sort into my posts. I'd never insult you -- or other experts in this stuff -- by suggesting you're not perfectly well aware of the literature in this field... other people may not be, however, and that Times piece seemed like a good starting point.

It's common -- for example, in "what did I do wrong?" threads in this forum -- for people to point out that if the person had been paying attention, he/she could have avoided the situation entirely. So what goes into "paying attention?" How do you get better at it? My reason for starting this thread was to get some discussion going that might be useful to others who are less well versed in this stuff, and get people thinking about the non-mystical (cognitive, emotional, physiological, what-have-you) factors that go into what we loosely call situational awareness.

Glenn E. Meyer
July 30, 2009, 11:10 AM
Vanya, I wasn't talking about you - sorry if I was misunderstood. In fact, I thought I was supporting your cogent posts and commenting on others.

Now, I'm sad - :o - going to lift weights now. Apologies.

Glenn

Vanya
July 30, 2009, 11:16 AM
Aw, shucks, Glenn... it was that Vanya - that sorta gave me that impression... I guess I have my "prickly-skin" on this morning.

Sorry 'bout that. :o

Good lifting. :)

BlueTrain
July 30, 2009, 01:44 PM
I have to take issue with the sheep analogy again. You find all sorts of animals out there. Goats, mules, kittens, bulls, and so on. (What kind of animal are you?) And did you ever notice that sheep dogs either look like sheep or like wolves?

When I went places with my father he was always noticing animals along the road and I rarely saw them. Now that I do the driving, I see animals. It's simply that the driver is on the lookout. It also helps a lot if there are actually animals out there and there are many more where I live than where he lived. And it helps to know where to look sometimes.

hogdogs
July 30, 2009, 02:06 PM
As the passenger I am free to really scan for "stuff" in general:D Just yesterday I found my self droolin' when I spotted 6 does in the brush on the side of a highway at mid day. My father was driving and didn't see them until I showed him the one in the open.
A true predator is always scanning whether walking driving or riding along.

Many folks have shown disdain at my statement that I am a predator claiming that is what criminals are... Nay says I... An apex predator rarely preys upon those of same specie and pack. Real predators are either solo or team hunters of "lesser" non predatory species.
Brent

Vanya
July 30, 2009, 02:10 PM
I have to take issue with the sheep analogy again. You find all sorts of animals out there. Goats, mules, kittens, bulls, and so on. (What kind of animal are you?) And did you ever notice that sheep dogs either look like sheep or like wolves?
Agreed! The "sheep, sheepdogs, wolves" thing is way overused, and also not very informative.

And re: what kind of animal are you?... it's funny how almost no one identifies as, oh, a woodchuck, or a beaver, or some other hardworking and inoffensive beast. Everyone's gotta be a predator.

When I went places with my father he was always noticing animals along the road and I rarely saw them. Now that I do the driving, I see animals. It's simply that the driver is on the lookout. It also helps a lot if there are actually animals out there and there are many more where I live than where he lived. And it helps to know where to look sometimes.
If you live somewhere where the deer population is pretty much out of control, being on the lookout is a survival skill. And when you're really looking out for them, you get a lot of false alarms: ever notice how much a mailbox resembles a deer by the side of the road? :o

Vanya
July 30, 2009, 02:21 PM
Many folks have shown disdain at my statement that I am a predator claiming that is what criminals are... Nay says I... An apex predator rarely preys upon those of same specie and pack. Real predators are either solo or team hunters of "lesser" non predatory species.
Without a doubt, Brent, you qualify as a predator, according to the textbook definition! :D Not to hijack my own thread, but that "criminal = predator" thing really gets my, er, goat -- from what I've seen, it's mostly used by chest-thumpers as a way to justify their aggressive fantasies by dehumanizing the objects of the fantasy.

BlueTrain
July 30, 2009, 02:30 PM
Perhaps the deer think the human population is out of control!

But it reminds me that when you are driving, you are probably exercising a high sense of situational awareness. That's probably a little too bold a statement, since I expect many people aren't. And then, too, it only takes a little distraction for the mind to wander. And a moment's unawareness is all it takes. It helps to have a little experience, too, which goes without saying.

What kind of animal am I? I don't know. Maybe I'm a mole, maybe a little squirrelly, very goat-like, a little bear-like, ---hey, this is starting to sound like a parlor game.

Rich Miranda
July 30, 2009, 02:34 PM
...troops who were good at spotting bombs in simulations tended to think of themselves as predators, not prey.

While not directly related, the same can be said of professional driving techniques. I train drivers to not just respond to actions that may affect them, but to search out situations and occurrences that may affect them.

In changing from a 'responder' to a 'searcher' you go from prey to predator, in a way.

Good reading, BTW.

M1911
July 30, 2009, 02:54 PM
You do have a 6th sense. My grandmother always told me pay attention to it. All of us have been in situations or places that just didn't feel right. That's because there was something that was not right.
That is the main point in Gavin DeBecker's book, "The Gift of Fear." Many (most?) of the crime victims that he interviewed knew that something was wrong, but they didn't listen to that voice in the back of their head.

Our subconscious will often recognize predatory behavior before our conscious mind does.

Vanya
July 30, 2009, 03:04 PM
But it reminds me that when you are driving, you are probably exercising a high sense of situational awareness.
Yes -- at least you should be... it's a good analogy, I think.

While not directly related, the same can be said of professional driving techniques. I train drivers to not just respond to actions that may affect them, but to search out situations and occurrences that may affect them.

In changing from a 'responder' to a 'searcher' you go from prey to predator, in a way.
Interesting thought... you go from passive to active mode, and given that truckers need to be able to maintain that level of attention for several hours at a stretch, it's a really good example of the kind of everyday skill- and mind-set I'm interested in here, which is a bit different from training to respond to emergencies. "An efficient active-search mode" would be a good description of that mindset, I think.

I'm curious -- what kind of training methods do you use? Any simulations, or mostly instruction and practice in the real world?

Funnily enough, that same issue of the Times had an article describing a long-term study of truckers' behavior, using in-cab video cameras, which found, among other things, that those who texted while driving were 23 times more likely to have accidents... The probability for those who talked on the phone was 1.3 times higher. But if that's your field, you probably know all about that study, Rich.

hogdogs
July 30, 2009, 03:11 PM
well as a life long barefooted redneck, I am sure that played a big part of being aware of my surroundings. I also drove truck but not until after many trips with my dad driving OTR. Also having road bikes gives a person a bunch of that awareness training if they want to survive the 4 wheelers. Wearing a 1%er club patch also brings possible violent acts from un known enemies into the equation... Never realized then how much these things would play out to this day.
Brent

Rich Miranda
July 30, 2009, 03:25 PM
I'm curious -- what kind of training methods do you use? Any simulations, or mostly instruction and practice in the real world?

...those who texted while driving were 23 times more likely to have accidents... The probability for those who talked on the phone was 1.3 times higher....

I'm in the charter bus business, BTW, where the lives of those 55 (or 56) people sitting behind you are your responsibility.

Well, we do a full 40 hours of classroom which is kind of the 'theory', and then we do 50 hours of 'behind-the-wheel' which is actual driving. We don't use any simulators. Mostly, the approach is to learn the technique via video and class instruction, then get into the bus and practice said technique. Each day is a different technique that builds on the last.

We use the Smith System:


Aim high in steering (this means look far ahead)
Get the big picture (what is happening 360 degrees around you)
Keep your eyes moving (things change quickly, are you up to date?)
Leave yourself an out (if you need to move quickly, where will you go?)
Make sure they see you (because if they don't, everyone's having a bad day)


Come to think of it, most of the above could help us in keeping ourselves safe!

Glenn E. Meyer
July 30, 2009, 03:36 PM
My, aren't I a stickler and pedantic. A sense means usually (for perception types like me), a discrete sensory system with specialized receptors and neural pathways.

Using the normally defined senses in a preattentive manner is not a sense. So I'm a pain - it's like you guys ranting when someone says clip for magazine.

Vanya
July 30, 2009, 03:46 PM
* Aim high in steering (this means look far ahead)
* Get the big picture (what is happening 360 degrees around you)
* Keep your eyes moving (things change quickly, are you up to date?)
* Leave yourself an out (if you need to move quickly, where will you go?)
* Make sure they see you (because if they don't, everyone's having a bad day)

Come to think of it, most of the above could help us in keeping ourselves safe!
It sure could!

Reminds me of an experience I had once, driving north (Friday rush hour) in a headwind in my old truck: the right side mirror was a bit loose, and the speed + wind was enough to push the mirror right against the side of the truck... I drove my friend nuts asking her to roll down the window and put it back every time -- but it drove me nuts not to have it in the right spot. Before this, I was pretty sure I used the mirrors a lot to scan around me, but I'd hadn't realized what a completely ingrained habit it was until all of a sudden, in heavy traffic, I couldn't do it. The left side and windshield mirrors were not enough to keep me happy...

My, aren't I a stickler and pedantic. A sense means usually (for perception types like me), a discrete sensory system with specialized receptors and neural pathways.

Using the normally defined senses in a preattentive manner is not a sense. So I'm a pain - it's like you guys ranting when someone says clip for magazine.
Glenn, you ARE a pedant... you use "discrete" correctly. :D

And you're absolutely right. I'm tempted to add that strictly speaking, there's also no such thing as "the mind," conscious or otherwise -- but it's a convenient fiction, I guess... ;)

anythingshiny
July 31, 2009, 03:12 PM
i just spent 3 days in dc proper for a conf and was AMAZED at the number of people head down with ipods plugged in. granted, i understand that the big city is home to them and their comfort level is higher than mine...but i could have been naked and only 1/2 the folks would have noticed.

i was comfortable and paid no more 'attention' than i normally would have..but because there were so many more folks and more 'things' going on...i was tired at the end of the day.

driving was an amazing challenge..i would submit that traffic laws do not apply in downtown dc. tween the cabs, the cyclists, the pedestrians and the traffic..you were risking you life to leave the hotel. :P

the filter theory has merit in that my 'filters' are tuned to a lower level than those urban dwellers..in that a siren in my neighborhood is rare...where NOT hearing a siren in dc was remarkable. my personal space norms were shattered on the metro ( did that girl just grab my butt?!).

i enjoyed the conf, the city and the food...but not sure that the big city is for me. just too much going on all the time. i'm sure i'd prob learn to filter out the little things and still pay attn to the important cues.

BlueTrain
July 31, 2009, 03:37 PM
There's actually a joke that says the police would go after a naked man sooner than they'd go after a man with a gun. However, I'm not prepared to test either side of the theory.

I've lived near DC for over 30 years, having moved here from West Virginia. I've always thought it was easier to get around in DC than in Pittsburgh, but as they say, your experience may be different. It certainly helps to be familiar with the area but that doesn't help much in finding a parking place. And because of the contemporary security climate, many places have evaporated. You even need to go through security to visit the greenhouse at the foot of Capital Hill.

Vanya
July 31, 2009, 05:17 PM
i was comfortable and paid no more 'attention' than i normally would have..but because there were so many more folks and more 'things' going on...i was tired at the end of the day.
Yes... it can be tiring to be bombarded with the amount of random stimulation a big city pumps out.. which is where the "filtering" thing comes in. (Not sure I'd dignify it by calling it a theory, though. ;) It's just a handy way of talking about something I've noticed.)

As to traffic laws... people do obey rules in "Bos-Wash" -- only, they're not the ones that are written down. As I recall, one of the main ones is "The person going the fastest has the right of way." :D

It occurs to me that figuring out the local rules, whether for driving or other stuff, is probably another aspect of "everyday" situational awareness... For instance, whether, and when, you're supposed to make eye contact can vary even from one neighborhood to another. (And a corollary of the right-of-way rule above is that if you let another driver make eye contact with you, you've just lost it -- the right of way, that is...)

Bismarck357
August 1, 2009, 06:29 AM
I was in the military for 10yrs, 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Battalion Bravo Company;unit call sign "Chameleon-25". I was trained to be more dangerous then a rabid wolf,and that training kept me alive through two tours in Iraq, unfortunitly in the beginning of my 3rd tour I was hit in the chest and shoulder;the damage was enough to force me into retirment.
Yet to this day, I retain all of my hightend awareness;to the point that I don't really sleep.I treat everyone as a potential threat until they are proven otherwise.

I am a little hot tempered with this post,I hope it does not cause concern with anyone;I'm really a nice guy once ya get to know me.

Double Naught Spy
August 1, 2009, 08:49 AM
"situational awareness," loosely defined as the ability to perceive threats.

Interesting loose definition. I would call it a very narrow definition. I always thought threat awareness was the ability to perceive threats. Situational awareness was the ability to be aware of what is going on in one's own immediate environment inclusive of threats, but also of opportunities, opitons, non-threats, etc. So it isn't just about recognizing danger signs, but also having the information available about the local surroundings. This may be useful should there be trouble, but also as a meaning of simply operating better in your immediate enviornment.

The driving analogy was noted above and is a good one for situational awareness. While it may have nothing to do with danger, a driver with good situational awareness can avoid many traffic snarls, make better lane decisions, etc., along with avoiding being hit by other cars or beset by panhandlers.

MLeake
August 1, 2009, 09:38 AM
Are there other aircraft around me? If in visual conditions, when was the last time I visually cleared all forward sectors? If in instrument conditions, when was the last time I heard another aircraft or a controller on the radio?

What is my aircraft's attitude? (Nose up or down; wings level or banked left/right; turning or straight) Is the aircraft attitude appropriate for where I am and what I am trying to do?

What is my altitude? Is it suitable for terrain avoidance in my vicinity? Is it appropriate for my direction of travel (based on conventions for compass heading)? If I am below a safe obstacle clearance altitude, due to being on approach or climbout, is my navigation assured so that I will not run into terrain?

What is my airspeed? Is it suitable to maintain airflow over the wings to maintain altitude at the angle of bank I plan to achieve? Is it steady, or is it accelerating or decelerating?

How is my engine running? Are major indications normal and in the green?

Do I have adequate fuel for my intended destination and alternate? Is my actual fuel level tracking along with my predictions from flight planning? If not, what trends are developing? Should I consider a different destination or alternate?

If I lose an engine right now, what is the safest direction to turn while I try to troubleshoot, and restart if appropriate? Where is the nearest suitable divert field? Are there obstructions between my present position and my chosen divert for this leg?

If in a multi-crew aircraft, is my crew performing as expected and responding as expected for the given situation?

Note1: This list is not all-inclusive.

Note2: A competent pilot runs through a sequence like this very, very frequently. In visual conditions, 90% of scan should be outside, but even then the other pieces of this list should be thought through every 10 or 20 seconds (attitude, altitude, airspeed) to every one to several minutes (engine, fuel, navigation).

Note3: Anything that looks, feels, sounds, or smells funny should require additional attention, even if there's no immediate rational definition of the problem.

Note4: No matter what kind of troubleshooting you have to do, ALWAYS maintain positive control of aircraft attitude, airspeed, direction of travel, and altitude (or rate of descent if an engine is out).

So, to pilots at least, SA has a much broader definition than "threat analysis".

Vanya
August 1, 2009, 11:04 AM
"situational awareness," loosely defined as the ability to perceive threats.
Interesting loose definition. I would call it a very narrow definition. I always thought threat awareness was the ability to perceive threats. Situational awareness was the ability to be aware of what is going on in one's own immediate environment inclusive of threats, but also of opportunities, opitons, non-threats, etc. So it isn't just about recognizing danger signs, but also having the information available about the local surroundings. This may be useful should there be trouble, but also as a meaning of simply operating better in your immediate enviornment.
You're absolutely right, of course. The Times article was focussed mainly on research on threat awareness, and that's often what people mean when they (loosely) talk about "situational awareness" in this forum; but your definition is spot-on, and I think is very much what we've been talking about.

So, to pilots at least, SA has a much broader definition than "threat analysis".
Great post. Thanks for that.

Now, who'll tackle the equivalent set of "attentional behaviors" for walking down a city street? I have my own notions about this, but... I keep wanting to come back to the canoeing analogy, which isn't the best one for this forum. :o

nazshooter
August 22, 2009, 03:06 PM
Vanya:
One question this raises for me is what role sense of smell might play in some of this, especially as it relates to people? We say casually, "Something doesn't smell right," and I wonder if it can literally be true with people. If so, it's another cue we'd be likely to notice at a less-than-conscious level, I think. And I wonder if it's trainable, and how you'd do that...

That reminds me of a story from "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" Here's a small snippet.

Then I looked at the bookshelf and said, "Those books you haven't
looked at for a while, right? This time, when I go out, take one book off
the shelf, and just open it -- that's all -- and close it again; then put it
back."
So I went out again, she took a book, opened it and closed it, and put
it back. I came in -- and nothing to it! It was easy. You just smell the
books. It's hard to explain, because we're not used to saying things about
it. You put each book up to your nose and sniff a few times, and you can
tell. It's very different. A book that's been standing there a while has a
dry, uninteresting kind of smell. But when a hand has touched it, there's a
dampness and a smell that's very distinct.


It seems that our noses (and maybe other senses) are a lot more capable than we realize.

Phoebe
August 22, 2009, 08:11 PM
Background: I'm a trained (graduate school level) social science researcher, though that's not my field anymore.

It is legitimate to ask the question...nature or nurture. Science advances by picking a hypothesis and then testing it and either validating or discarding it. There are ways to figure out how much any given variable contributes to a particular behavior.

Leaving my inner researcher aside, some people have good common sense, and some don't. I have known people who will, repeatedly find themselves drawn to sociopaths, and they seem to have no radar or self-protective instinct to kick in.

My "spidey sense", is well attuned. If I get a "bad vibe" from someone, I need to take heed.

I'm not sure if that part can be trained.

But some people have good instinct and have learned to ignore that inner voice.

But that people sense, is not identical to SA. In fact, I'm not even sure how much overlap there is. I do think it may be easier in the country because, if something is out of place, it's not hard for it to be found in the back of the mind. As someone else pointed out (maybe Vanya?), in the city, we are overwhelmed with input to all of our senses, which makes it harder to spot something that is askew.

Though the bigger problem is likely to be gadgets, (boy have I recently realized that having my head in a cellphone makes me oblivious), daydreaming, or general lack of attention to nuances that mean something may be about to go wrong.

Years ago, I was walking from my car, to a night club. I was alone and in a bad area. A man jumped out to grab my purse. I was utterly oblivious. But someone else had SA, and jumped at the guy that was about to jump at me. No harm came to me, nor did I lose my purse. But if I had SA, I'd have noticed in the same way the GG noticed. (Do we use GG here in contrast to BG? :D )

Interesting article.

robmkivseries70
August 23, 2009, 12:01 PM
I'd like to reiterate M1911's mention of DeBecker's "Gift of Fear". It is a well done read on situational awareness. I just saw a copy in the local book store yesterday.
Best,
Rob

nazshooter
September 1, 2009, 02:37 AM
I wonder what regular folks can do to train/practice this stuff. I've been successful at developing some good habits such as scanning high threat areas from a distance before approaching but there are some things that I really need to work on. For example, my wife and I might both notice that nervous guy in the store but she notices what's in his basket, his shoes, hands (smooth/clean vs. rough/dirty), etc. Me, I can probably tell you what color shirt he was wearing. She'll also notice if a store employee seems to be keeping an eye on us while I hardly ever do.

Way back in driver's ED they'd show us a slide for a second or two and we'd have to list all the safety issues we noticed (brake lights, kid about to step between two parked cars etc). Does something like this exist for SA?

Dannyl
September 1, 2009, 05:01 AM
Hi All,
One of the principles that will help minimize reaction time is to "have a plan".
This means that you train yourself to react in a certain manner to a given scenario. Yes, there are many variants, but having the initial response planned and reharesed (even if is only in your mind) gives you the advantage of a much faster reaction, which you can then adapt to the circumstaces.

I spent a few years in a place where IED / Sniper / Ambush were a daily occurence, and what has been written above regarding "thinking like a predator" is very true; it translates to looking at the terrain and items, and thinking" "If I wanted to place an Ambush / IED, where would I place it? what would be my access and egress routes?" by identifying these objects and places, and be prepared to the possibility that others have thought of it as you did (your adversaries). in Civilain life, it tells me that If I see a cash-transport armored vehicle I make sure I move away from the area and FAST.
Over here these vehicles are literally lead-magnets, and the BGs use AKs. Even when this is in the parking lot of a mall.(happens on average twice a week at least in South Africa), it also reminds you to park your car in a well lit area the parking lot, and so on. you simply get used to identifying potential threats before you are in danger.

What this means is that if you have to move into a place that puts you at disadvantage, you are aware of it, and more ready to react should you have to, and if you can, you avoid getting into this place or circumstances.

One can live with this awareness without being paranoid, you are just more aware of your surroundings.

Brgds,

Danny

Dubs
September 1, 2009, 05:47 PM
I think people have a tendency to over-complicate the sympathetic nervous system. They call it the "Fight or Flight" response for a reason. They are both very primal.

The "Flight" response occurs when you believe you are prey, and this translates to "Run in the opposite direction as fast as you can" and your fine motor skills go completely out the window. The problem is, in the world of things requiring fine motor skills (operating cars, unlocking doors) and the general futility of running (bullets) makes it a very self-destructive response - what we call "panic."

This is where I think "thinking like a predator" comes in to play, because it nurtures the "Fight" response, where your adrenaline turns from uncontrollable shaking to unrelenting focus. This, in my experience, not only requires the mental conditioning of "predator confidence," so to speak, but actual experience and competence in the field. You can pretend to focus all you want, but if you sincerely don't know what to do, you are going to panic.

So yes, like the article says... training and conditioning is really the only way. Thinking like a predator is a symptom, not a cause.

Re: Situational Awareness in the civilian world: They basically teach even every security guard this skill. It has less to do with practicing being "shifty-eyed" than learning all of the intricacies of body language, body language, body language. Even the most naturally empathic person can't read the subtleties of body language at birth. There are tons of little things to look for and you're never done learning.