Cognitive Fitness: From Measuring to Training, and Enhancing Individuals’ Capacity for Peak Performance
Prof Eugene Aidman (DST)
Mental health literature has been dominated by clinical considerations of psychological deficit. The concept of mental fitness (MF) was introduced to promote a positive and proactive notion of mental health to the wider community. Cognitive readiness (CR) reflects a broad set of predictors of cognitive performance in complex operational tasks, including trainable skills, knowledge and attitudes (KSAs), dynamic functional states, and stable, trait-like characteristics ranging from cognitive ability to working memory and learning styles. Cognitive Fitness Framework (CF2) integrates the MF and CR concepts to examining the measurable attributes underpinning cognitive performance under challenging conditions and to developing evidence-based protocols for their assessment, training and augmentation. Cognitive fitness as a capacity to deploy neurocognitive resources, knowledge and skills to meet the demands of operational task performance, is likely to be multifaceted and differentially malleable. Recent developments in cognitive fitness measurement will be presented, along with examples of interventions aimed at cognitive enhancement and augmentation. Discussion will focus on two key challenges facing research in this area: (1) the elusive consensus on the constituent elements of cognitive fitness and their malleability, and (2) the new-generation psychometrics – a paradigm exploiting gamification and artificial intelligence to build the tools capable of assessing the full range of psychological functioning – from deficit to peak performance.
Active Management of Occupational Load for the Optimisation of Human Performance and Injury Prevention – the RAAF “Fighter FIT” Program
WGCDR Carlos Almenara (RAAF)
The RAAF has implemented a proactive risk management strategy to mitigate the risk of fast-jet aircrew musculoskeletal injury based on the elite athlete model. RAAF has drawn on best available sports-science evidence to design and implement a program targeting pre-injury intervention and management strategies. Research partnerships have been established with IAM, the NATO Aircrew Neck Pain Working Group, University of Canberra, ADF Defence Science and Technology Group, and other local partners. The program has produced significant reductions in injury rates over its first two years, and reported improvements in performance by aircrew. The program has demonstrated a tangible system for better understanding and management of occupational load in order to enable positive capability and duty of care outcomes through human performance optimisation.
WGCDR Almenara is a fighter pilot and flying instructor with operational experience in the F/A-18 Hornet. He has extensive experience in flying instruction, particularly in the Introductory Fighter Course syllabus on the Hawk-127 aircraft. He has instructed both in Australia and in the UK on exchange with the Royal Air Force. He commenced an injury prevention program for trainee fighter pilots whilst the Executive Officer of 76SQN, RAAF Williamtown, and later established the Air Combat Group (ACG) Fighter Fit program as the Executive Officer of 78 Wing. Due to the success of this program in its reduction of injury in ACG, he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross in the 2019 Queen’s birthday honours. He is currently posted to the newly established Headquarters Air Command A9 Human Performance and Safety Directorate as Deputy Director of Human Performance.
Assessment of fluid intelligence requires considerations of within-individual variability in performance trajectories
Dr Damian P. Birney & Dr. Jens F. Beckmann (University of Sydney)
Historically, understanding intelligence generally, and fluid intelligence (Gf) specifically, has been a decidedly between-subjects endeavour that relies on correlations and factor-analysis. However, it turns out that knowing what Gf is and is not correlated with tell us little about underlying processes. This limits the practical utility of classic assessments of Gf. In this talk we reflect on insights gained by within-subject experimental manipulations designed to investigate how a process-oriented approach to human intellect might augment our understanding of its correlates. Study 1 (N=142 students) considers relational binding manipulations and Gf to isolate working-memory demand, as a facet of Gf. Study 2 (N=252 managers) shows Ravens item-performance trajectories are explained by confidence and Neuroticism, over and above Gf; Study 3 (N=142) shows that cognitive and conative dispositional factors, but not personality and emotional intelligence, differentially explain within-subject performance costs and learning trajectories in complex microworld simulations. Finally, Study 4 shows that applications of process-oriented dynamic conceptualisations of cognitive flexibility provide incremental utility in predicting real-world outcomes, over and above traditional measures of Gf. Together, the findings form the basis of an argument for the importance of considering process-oriented accounts of the impact within-subject manipulations have on complex task performance. We conclude by describing the components of cognitive flexibility theory and as a paradigm for ongoing investigations of the assessment of fluid intelligence.
Associate Professor Damian Patrick Birney was awarded his PhD (Queensland, Australia) in December 2002. He has since held positions researching intelligence and memory at Yale University, the University of Sydney, and the University of New South Wales. He served as the Director of the Accelerated Learning Laboratory (University of New South Wales), a research group that investigated the development of leadership expertise in managers from QANTAS, ANZ, IAG, ABC, and Amcor. Damian has provided psychometric and statistical consulting on various Australian and international research projects and has been a co-chief investigator on Australian Research Council and industry grants in excess of $5million. He currently holds a teaching and research position at the University of Sydney. Damian teaches in the areas of statistics and intelligence and his research interests are in measurement, psychometric assessment, and training of working-memory, fluid intelligence and cognitive flexibility. He is and his team of researchers at the University of Sydney are currently exploring processes-oriented accounts underlying cognitive abilities using multi-level, general linear mixed-effects regressions methods.
Mental Fitness Training: an approach to resilience enhancement based on self-reflection
Dr Monique Crane (CEPET, Macquarie University)
Several militaries, including the Australian Defence Force (ADF), have acknowledged that the inherent challenges associated with military service may place individuals at an increased risk of psychological distress and compromised functioning (Hoge et al., 2004; Maguen et al., 2009; O’Toole, Catts, Outram, Pierse & Cockburn, 2009). In response to these risks, the ADF has invested significant resources in the development and implementation of resilience strengthening programs (Cohn, Crane & Hodson, 2011). In 2017, a new approach to resilience training was developed. This training approach was based on three core assumptions: (1) the likelihood of resilience is, in part, enhanced via experiential learning, (2) moderate stressors and adversity are germane to the development of resilience over the life course, and (3) experiential learning is enhanced via adaptive self-reflection and action (Crane et al., 2019a). This new approach, known as Mental Fitness Training, was the first of its kind to use a structured form of self-reflective practice to enhance resilience. Mental Fitness Training attempts to develop self-awareness and a critical self-examination of one’s coping and emotion regulatory responses to training stressors (Crane & Boga, 2017; Crane et al., 2019b). This type of program has emerged from a growing body of evidence regarding the relevance of self-reflective practices to the learning process in adults (Cranton, 2006; Ellis, Carette, Anseel & Lievens, 2014; Franz, 2010; Mezirow, 1997) and to opportunities for growth following moderate stressor exposure (Crane & Searle, 2015; Seery, Holman & Silver, 2010; Seery, Leo, Lupien, Kondrak & Almonte, 2013). The investigation of systematic self-reflective resilience training has now yielded a strong evidence base for the use of the training strategy to improve mental health and performance outcomes in Royal Military College Cadets. An initial trial conducted during 2017 found that Mental Fitness Training, relative to a revision of BattleSMART, resulted in significantly greater reductions in anxiety symptoms, depression symptoms, and perceived stress between immediate follow-up and long-term follow-up testing. A second trial conducted in 2018 replicated these findings using a more rigorous control group. A final trial in 2019, compared the standard Mental Fitness Training to a package where Cadet Instructors were also trained to integrate systematic self-reflection into their instructional practices. The study demonstrated the package involving Cadet Instructors yielded both mental health benefits and improvements in Cadet performance. This talk will seek to summaries this existing body of research into self-reflective resilience training and describe the potential utility of the training in the context of other organisations.
Dr Monique Crane is a senior lecturer at Macquarie University, a registered psychologist, member of the Australian Psychological Society, invited member of the suicide prevention research leaders network, and academic member of the College of Organisational Psychologists. She is also an Associate Editor for the Journal of Anxiety, Stress, and Coping. She directs a program of research seeking to understand human resilience, particularly in the military context and has worked with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) since 2010 developing resilience in ADF personnel. Dr Crane has secured over $1.7 million in total competitive grant funding for resilience research.
Systems Thinking and Synthetic Thought in High Performance Sport
Mr Kelly Cross (Sydney FC Academy)
The presentation will detail the first five years of the Sydney FC Academy and how we have implemented an approach which would appear to differ from traditional practice. The results are beginning to appear, with team and individual performance at a high level (eg, 9 of 26 players recently selected for an Australian National U-18 squad were from our club).
Kelly Cross has been the Academy Director at Sydney FC since late 2014, having previously served as Assistant National Technical Director at FFA. He has been working full-time at State and National level for twenty-six years, including roles as NSW Institute of Sport Head Coach and Director of the Football Program at Westfields Sports High School. The long list of players who have graduated from his programs and progressed to National Team representation includes Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton, Archie Thompson, Jason Culina, Luke Wilkshire, Brett Holman, Alex Brosque, James Holland and Aaron Mooy. Kelly has vast experience in the field of Coach Education, and was the driving force behind the introduction and development of FFA’s well-respected Advanced Coaching Pathway. He has been on FIFA’s global list of Technical Experts since 2007, and an AFC Elite Instructor since 2006. In 2012, he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the AFC Technical Committee. He has written a wealth of FFA’s Coach Education resources as well as the FFA publications ‘The Football Coaching Process’, ‘Coaching Grassroots Football’ and ‘Football for Kids.’ Kelly holds the AFC Professional Diploma, the highest coaching award available, and a degree in Physical Education, as well as top coaching accreditation from England and the United States. In 2013, he was selected into the inaugural AIS Performance Leaders program. He has coached, studied and lectured on football in 40 countries, spanning every continent. Kelly was instrumental in the development of FFA’s updated National Football Curriculum in 2013.
Beasts of burden: Designing hippomorphic human-autonomy teams
Dr S. Kate Devitt (Defence Science & Technology Group)
The future warfighter will require human-autonomy teams (HAT) working seamlessly together in higher tempo operations. In this paper I propose that trusted autonomous vehicle teams should be designed to emulate the relationship between horse and rider more than that of a horseless carriage and its driver. To date, social robotics research has shown how some animals respond to robots and the impact of social cues on their interactions e.g. dogs (Lakatos et al., 2014) and rats (Quinn et al., 2018) and how humans interact with anthropogenic (Wang & Krumhuber, 2018) or animal-like robots (Moyle et al., 2013). Some literature discusses how secondary moral duties of humans toward s animals might be used to justify behavioural obligations to social robots (Darling, 2016; Thilo, 2017). This research considers how normative models of human-animal interactions could play a role in designing human-autonomy teams. While many animals might be considered for such an exploration, this research gives a hypothetical scenario of autonomous vehicles not anthropomorphized, but hippomorphised—that is, modelled on human-horse relationships (Höök, 2010; Xenophon, 350B.C./2006) grounded in social contract theory (Leben, 2019) and social robotics.
If humans related to autonomous vehicles more like horses the following would pertain:
- a dominance relationship where humans can override (horses serving humans)
- herd behaviours (vehicles negotiating with other vehicles, but these interactions are able to be intervened)
- cross-modal, pre-linguistic communication between autonomous vehicles and humans using tactile feedback, sound and animal-like reactions (e.g. vehicle designed to interpret and react to human signs of anxiety such as raising blood pressure, facial expressions, emotional sounds such as indrawn breath, cries etc...)
- autonomous vehicles are loyal to, or working on behalf of their existing user, even if they switch users, that the autonomous vehicle prioritises the current occupant over the herd
- the autonomous vehicle will remember its previous interactions with you to establish a relationship (e.g. remember your preferred settings, know whether you tried to damage it or interfere with it inappropriately before and communicate these infractions to the 'herd')
- if the autonomous vehicle behaves in an unexpectant or suboptimal way for the human occupant, it may be trained to behave differently by human guidance within the bounds of the vehicles capabilities to behave and learn.
- the autonomous vehicle remembers both experiences and learned behaviours for specific passengers
In this way the research does not defend an ethical argument that humans ought to be kind to autonomous vehicles in the way they would be to an animal, but that designers should establish a relationship of shared obligations between autonomous vehicles and warfighters that resemble the psychological relationship that can exist between humans and animals such as horses. The framework aims to satisfy potentially incommensurate moral requirements to protect one’s own with broader just war obligations.
Dr Kate Devitt is a social and ethical robotics researcher at Defence Science and Technology Group, Deputy Chief Scientist of the Trusted Autonomous Systems Cooperative Research Centre and Adjunct Research Fellow at the University of Queensland. She is co-editor of the open-access book Good Data that aims to paint an alternative, more optimistic but still pragmatic picture of the datafied future. She researches the epistemology, ethics & rationality of AI, decision support tools, robots, autonomous systems & human-machine teaming.
Systematic reviews of optimal psychological states: Insights into Flow and Clutch performance
Scott Goddard (Southern Cross University), Matthew Schweickle (University of Wollongong), Christian Swann (Southern Cross University), Patricia Jackman (University of Lincoln), Christopher Stevens (Southern Cross University), Stewart Vella (University of Wollongong)
Background: Optimal psychological states—predominately conceptualised as flow—are highly sought after in sport, exercise, and performance related contexts due to their association with outcomes such as exceptional performances, positive subjective experiences, and wellbeing. The associated benefits of these states naturally extend to military contexts, where soldiers endeavour to perform at the highest calibre, as often as possible. However, recent evidence has indicated a new perspective of these experiences which includes distinct psychological states of flow and clutch (i.e., a distinct state underlying superior performance under pressure). The evidence of distinct psychological states has led to new conceptualisations of optimal psychological states (e.g. The Integrated Model of Flow and Clutch States), prompting fundamental questions around what we currently know about flow and clutch, and how best to translate this knowledge into applied practice. Purpose: This presentation will provide state of the art insights into flow and clutch performance by discussing two systematic reviews which were conducted recently to synthesise and evaluate existing research in relation to each state. Methods: First, a systematic review will be presented on what is known about interventions to induce flow in sport and exercise, with a focus upon: (i) what strategies and tasks have been used in flow interventions for sport and exercise; (ii) how were the interventions developed, delivered, and evaluated; (iii) what mechanisms of action are proposed to mediate the flow experience in athletes; and (iv) how effective are existing flow interventions. This review was guided by the PRISMA guidelines. A systematic search of the literature was completed across 8 databases. Papers were included if they were a peer-reviewed journal article in English language, reported original empirical evidence, published prior to November 2019, and contained an attempt to experimentally manipulate the intensity or frequency of flow experiences via an intervention. In total, 29 empirical studies met the inclusion criteria. A narrative synthesis of qualitative and quantitative studies was conducted and the results will be discussed in this presentation. Results indicated that intervention attempts to induce flow have had varying success. Interventions most commonly employed a psychological skill (e.g., hypnosis; imagery; mindfulness), music, or a combination of skills to induce flow. A large number of studies employed single-subject designs, limiting the strength of their findings. Further, mechanisms of action are often not identified, or not linked with an appropriate intervention technique. Finally, the conceptual basis for intervention development may be contributing to the varied results. As such, future flow interventions should be developed to target identified mechanisms of change. Second, a systematic review of clutch performance will be presented, which addressed: (i) how clutch performance has been defined and measured; (ii) the quality of the available evidence; and (iii) findings regarding the occurrence of clutch performances. This review was also guided by the PRISMA guidelines. A systematic search of the literature was completed across 10 databases. Papers were included if they were a peer-reviewed journal article in English language, reported original empirical evidence, published prior to October 2019, and investigated clutch performance in the field of sport, exercise, or physical activity. In total, 27 empirical studies met the inclusion criteria. A narrative synthesis of qualitative and quantitative studies was conducted.
The results revealed that there is considerable heterogeneity in how clutch performance has been defined, conceptualised, and measured, limiting the ability to draw valid conclusions surrounding its existence, or occurrence. This review highlights the need to establish consensus surrounding definitions of clutch performance. Specifically, this review outlines the need to explore the aspects of performance that are necessary for clutch performance, in addition to investigating what situations performers evaluate as constituting pressure. Conclusion: The implications of these systematic reviews will be discussed, and future directions for flow and clutch states will be discussed in the context of sport, exercise, and performance psychology, with a focus on military environments.
Scott Goddard is a PhD student at Southern Cross University studying interventions for inducing flow in sport and exercise. Matthew Schweickle is a PhD student at University of Wollongong studying the psychology of clutch performance. Dr Christian Swann is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Southern Cross University, with a focus on the psychology of exceptional performance and optimal experiences. Dr Patricia Jackman is a Lecturer in Sport Psychology at University of Lincoln, and a researcher in optimal experiences in sport and exercise. Dr Christopher Stevens is a Senior Lecturer in Sport Science at Southern Cross Univeristy, with expertise in cooling strategies for sport performance in the heat. Dr Stewart Vella is a Senior Lecturer at University of Wollongong and an expert on mental health in sport.
Building cognitive resilience in the military
MAJ Lee Hayward (ADF – Army Headquarters)
The Fourth Industrial Revolution brings with it numerous opportunities and threats. The focus of this submission will be on how the ubiquity of technology and information inherent in the FIR threaten the cognitive resilience of the men and women of the ADF, and what opportunities we can leverage to mitigate them. The importance of cognitive resilience to Human Performance Optimisation is broadly understood. However, the ADF needs to extend its understanding of the ways in which degraded cognitive resilience can detract from capability, as well as how resilience can be built. Five Broad themes (with focus on the last two, despite length of over-view of first three):  The ADF has a well-established understanding of the impacts of operational stress and trauma on mental health, and how to build / rebuild cognitive resilience in this context. But should we be focussed on other areas of a solder / sailor / airman’s life? Are we focussed on building resilience to the right things? Does building resilience to trauma make a difference to cognitive resilience if we do not also seek to build resistance to the more regular and relentless stressors associated with the ubiquity of information? An argument can be made that it is not the role of the ADF to build resilience to social issues such as online harassment or fake news. However, a stronger argument can be made that these social issues are well within the remit of the ADF given the national security implications of a population that has a degraded physical and political will to fight.  There is currently insufficient evidence to suggest that social media is, in and of itself, degrades cognitive resilience. Obviously, this needs to be looked at in more detail, because there are multiple ways in which it has the potential to do so: Individuals are forming strong online relationships, potentially to the detriment of forming physical relationships and bonds with fellow members of the military.  Rates of depression and anxiety in young people have risen significantly over the past two decades, meaning the individuals we are recruiting have a lower levels mental resilience than previously. In the west, the flow of information facilitated by technology is relentless, and it is not all good. Anecdotally we can be comfortable attributing this to fakes news, real news and social media – be it attributable to cyber-bullying or anxiety about the (real or otherwise) state of the world. We only have to look at news cycles over the past several months to understand the extent to which our youth are being subjected to narratives about genuine existential threats, as well as the numbers of youth suicide attributed to online bullying and harassment.  The importance of cognitive resilience goes beyond mental health: it is fundamental to the three core executive functions of humans: inhibitory control, working memory and cognitive flexibility. In turn, these three core functions are fundamental to ensuing commanders have adequate situational understanding or awareness and are able to make optimal decisions.  What lessons should we be learning (and applying on a daily basis) from neuroplasticity.
MAJ Lee Hayward is an Intelligence Officer in Army Headquarters with a particular interest in Information Warfare and how it effects cognitive resilience and subsequent situational awareness / decision-making.
Cognition Under Fire: The Habitual Basis of Skilled Performances
Prof Daniel D. Hutto (University of Wollongong)
How can training prepare someone to act skilfully and effectively when faced with novel, unexpected situations, as is typical in military operations? What form should such training take in order to prepare one for situations in which there is no time to think and “your reactions must be second nature” (Goldsworthy 2014)? Any adequate answer these questions raises further questions about the kind of intelligence exhibited in such skilled performances. This presentation makes the case for thinking that – when suitably characterised – we can understand the cognitive basis of skilled performance in terms of open-ended and adjustable habitual doings. In doing so, it defends an enactivist account of habitual doings which, at its core, depicts habits not as blind or mindless but as flexible and adjustable modes of response that are world-directed and context-sensitive. Reasons are given for rejecting the default tendency to think that the mark of intelligence must always be understood terms of classic reasoning processes involving propositions (Sutton et al. 2011, Sutton & McIlwain 2015). Even assuming that reasoning may be quick and tacit, there are reasons to think making inferences over contentful representations depicting the relevant possibilities does not properly account for the dynamic character of on-the-fly, in situ, intelligent skilled performances. By understanding habits afresh, under the auspices of enactivism, it is possible to understand how skilful performance is not simply automatic but context-sensitive in ways that reveal it to be a kind of “highly disciplined mental activity” (Sutton et al. 2011, p. 78).
Daniel D. Hutto is Professor of Philosophical Psychology at the University of Wollongong and member of the Australian Research Council College of Experts. Prof. Hutto is the chief CI of the ARC-funded project Minds in Skilled Performance: Explanatory Framework and Comparative Study, started in 2017. The project aims to develop an explanatory framework to characterise states of mind necessary for skilled performance, and show how intelligence and emotion affect performance. The research will draw on Phenomenology, Pragmatism and Japanese “do”, clarifying and recontextualising what they have to offer to contemporary thinking about skilled performance.
Using mimicking gestures and videos to enhance hand motor skill acquisition
Prof Nadine Marcus (Associate Professor of Human Computer Interaction, School of Computer Science and Engineering, UNSW Sydney)
There is a current trend towards online learning. But we don’t yet fully understand when and how it is best to present information in this environment. This research is guided by Cognitive Load Theory and uses empirical research methodology to inform us of the best ways to present information online. There is a focus on understanding how the knowledge levels of the learners, type of instructional content and different instructional formats interact to impact on learning. The research focuses on how we can tap into our innate ability to learn by observing with the use of instructional animations in the form of videos. We also look at when and how gestures can facilitate learning, guided by embodied cognition perspectives.
Professor Nadine Marcus is an Associate Professor in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) within the School of Computer Science and Engineering at UNSW, Sydney. She leads the HCI group and has a cross-disciplinary background in computer science, and cognitive and educational psychology. Her research interests include the design of multimedia educational technology to improve human performance, skill acquisition and learning; novel measures of mental load used to inform Interface Design; and the design of improved Human Robot Interactions guided by her cognitive load theory expertise, including her extensive experience in embodied cognition research. The multimedia educational technology research includes collecting empirical data to inform instructional design theories and commercialization of a software platform, Smartsparrow. She is an internationally recognised cognitive load researcher and has been influential in the discovery of animation, element interactivity and transient information effects. She has been a Reviewer and published extensively in highly ranked international peer reviewed journals and conferences within Educational Technology, Human Factors, Interface Design and Educational Psychology (60+ publications, 1800+ citations, 17 h-index, $2M+ grants)
Cognitive Mastery – Performance & Resilience under Pressure
Ms Emily Chapman (ADFA, RAAF)
In 2016, (then) Brigadier Mick Ryan undertook a review of Army’s education, training and doctrine needs for the future. Titled The Ryan Review, it presented a human capacity system that builds to joint land capability, with one of the pillars (of seven) being ‘Psychological and cognitive mastery.’ This reflects it is critical for Australian Defence Force (ADF) to train and educate its people to be agile and adaptive thinkers heading into an uncertain and complex future. So the challenge turns to how the ADF can achieve cognitive mastery. One of the ways is through operating in extreme environments, in this case extreme cold in preparation to conduct a 1500km expedition across Antarctica. The expedition was my initiative after realising the benefits of outdoor environments and activities for wellbeing and resilience, which turned my thoughts to why this level of extreme training would be valuable despite the significant financial investment. In addressing this, three core areas will be examined. Decision-making: Drawing on the research of Dr Emma Barrett and Dr Nathan Smith to demonstrate how extreme environments can be used to train military personnel to make informed decisions under stress.  Communication: The nature and conditions of operating in extreme environments can place pressure on team cohesion, making it critical for personnel to be able to communicate and have hard discussions for the benefit of the team and the overall activity.  Failure: Preparation for the expedition has received no external support and has been delayed twice because of lack of funding, to a timeframe of 2020. Examining failure, and what it means, for military personnel can provide useful insight into developing cognitive mastery. This presentation draws on personal experience and couples it with existing ADF language, such as cognitive mastery, to draw out discussion that will bring together scientific advances in sport & performance psychology, embodied cognition theory and military environments to answer the question – How can we bring science and practice together to train and educate military personnel to be agile and adaptive thinkers?
Emily Chapman is a Defence Contractor working at Headquarters Joint Operations Command in the J7 Training Branch in Exercise Planning. She is concurrently a RAAF Reservist Operations Officer with a broad range of domestic and international experience.
Warrior Eyes: Samurai, Zen, and Situational Awareness
Prof Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza (Linfield College)
Keen awareness of and alertness to the risks (and opportunities) that one’s environment affords is valuable in life generally but acutely vital for those involved in, for example, the military, aviation, and emergency services. Indeed, situational awareness (SA) can make all the difference between surviving dire situations or not. Over the past few decades, research on SA has been prolific. The purpose of this presentation, however, is not to review the literature, adjudicate among different SA theories, or devise an always contested definition. Rather, the goal is to show the relevance of a tradition that expressly cultivated SA for life or death scenarios in notably successful ways, and which developed from the interaction between samurai culture and Zen Buddhism in medieval Japan. We may call this the “samurai ethos” (SE) for our purposes. To this end, I will discuss extant writings by fencing masters, military strategists, Buddhist monks, contemporary martial arts practitioners, and samurai historical and anecdotal accounts. What may initially seem arcane and obsolete, not the least because of the rather esoteric Buddhist vocabulary and concepts, turns out to be realistic, revealing, an relevant for present times and needs. Crucially, a situated and enactive account (SEA) anchors the underlying philosophical framework. Not only does it expediently cohere phenomenologically with East Asian views and practices, but also its holistic, dynamic, relational, extensive, and non-representational model of cognition and skills provides a superior theoretical basis for SA. Jointly, SE and SEA offer a rigorous and illuminating account of such central factors for SA as attention, attunement, prediction, responsiveness, improvisation, and intelligent habituation.
Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza is Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Linfield College (Oregon), which he joined in 2006. There, he has received the 2011-2012 Samuel H. Graf Faculty Achievement Award and was 2008-2009 Allen & Pat Kelley Faculty Scholar. In 2013-15 he served as president of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS); he was also the Conference Chair for IAPS from 2011-2013. He has published Holism and the Cultivation of Excellence in Sports and Performance: Skillful Striving (Routledge 2016), and many articles in specialized journals and book chapters on comparative philosophy, martial arts, and sports. He has also co-edited a book on philosophy and cycling.
Developing psychometric measures of resilient performance capability: Acute Readiness and Army Resilience Traits Scales
Dr Richard Keegan (University of Canberra)
Resilience is commonly positioned as a desirable attribute, but existing psychometric measures have been assessed as inappropriate for use in Australian Army: they were not developed with Australian forces, and focus more on resilient emotional and mental health, which is not aligned to the requirements of Australian Army (these considerations are already assessed as standard practice). In response, we developed two bespoke indicators of resilience, focusing on maintaining performance capability: one assessing acute 'readiness' and one assessing self-perceptions of attributes that promote resilient performance capability. The two following studies were drawn from one large data-collection facilitated by DST and Australian Army, between August and October 2019.
Acute Readiness in Military Monitoring Scale (ARMMS): Military personnel are required to be ‘ready’ for a diverse range of activities over long time periods, and managing force capability is a core concern for military decision makers and planners. Typical existing approaches for monitoring military readiness involve either in-depth record-keeping of training, health and equipment maintenance, or data from wearable devices that can be both difficult to interpret and dependent on secure network connections. A widely-applicable, validated, and simple psychometric measure of perceived readiness would be invaluable in generating rapid evaluations of current force capability from personnel. To develop this measure, we conducted two studies drawn from a large sample of 770 Australian military personnel: first an exploratory factor analysis and second a confirmatory factor analysis, with evaluations of convergent and divergent validity. The 32-item Acute Readiness in Military Monitoring Scale (ARMMS) demonstrated good model fit, and comprised nine factors: (1) overall readiness; (2) physical readiness; (3) physical fatigue; (4) cognitive readiness; (5) cognitive fatigue; (6) threat-challenge (i.e., emotional/coping) readiness; (7) skills-and-training readiness; (8) group-team readiness, and (9) equipment readiness. Readiness factors were negatively correlated with recent stress, current negative affect and distress, and positively correlated with resilience, wellbeing, current positive affect and a supervisor’s rating of solider readiness. The development of the ARMMS facilitates a range of new research opportunities, as well as enabling quick, simple and easily-interpreted assessment of individual and group readiness in the military. Australian Army Resilience Traits Scale (AARTS): Training and development in military settings necessitate the ability to measure overall traits and attributes that are targeted for development. Traits that mitigate the effects of stress and load on performance are highly desirable in military applications, and may be termed resilience in this context. A focus on resilience as protecting performance capability, as opposed to mental health or stress coping, necessitated the development of a new measure for this purpose. The most popular psychometric measure of resilience has not been validated in Australian military, and further has shown inconsistent factor structure when deployed in different settings/populations. Hence, in order to be used in Australian military, it was necessary to develop and validate a new measure, drawing from previous research on resilience. We recruited a sample of 770 Australian military personnel, to conduct Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA -n=500) and Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA - n=270). We drew questionnaire items from the CD-RISC, the stress-mindset scale, a grit scale, a self-control scale and a brief psychological wellbeing scale. EFA generated a 25-item, five factor model for the Australian Army Resilience Traits Scale (AARTS), with good model fit indices, which were supported in the subsequent CFA. The five factors were: (a) wellbeing (self-acceptance and mastery); (b) coping efficacy; (c) overcoming challenges; (d) sustaining focus; and (e) stress mindset – with proposed factors in spirituality and supportive relationships not forming coherent factors. The AARTS subscales showed good concurrent validity and thus may warrant further research using other populations, and seeking criterion validity wit h key learning outcomes and performance criteria.
Richard Keegan is psychologist, registered in the UK (HCPC) and Australia (AHPRA). Richard is Associate Professor in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Canberra. His research focuses on four key areas: motivational processes in sport and exercise; physical literacy; applied sport psychology practice; and resilience. He has led large funded research projects for Sport Australia (National Physical Literacy Framework) and DST (Individual Readiness and Resilience), as well as contributing as a team member on research grants in Australia, New Zealand, Wales, England and the United States. His book Being a Sport Psychologist focuses on understanding the role of practicing sport psychologists, and how to navigate post-graduate training and supervised practice.
Preparing SAS Operators for performance under pressure
Dr Harry Moffit (STOTAN)
Many organisations are interested in how their people perceive, react to, perform and are impacted by high-pressure situations and environments. The military is one such domain. However, the science and technology pendulum may have swung too far and many of the assumptions we have taken for granted in the past, are no longer so. In Harry’s presentation, the audience can gain valuable insights into how experts select, prepare, maintain and recover operators who work in some of the highest pressure environments in the world. Harry will share insights from lessons learned by Australia’s elite military unit, the SAS. Specifically, he will cover how the SAS has evolved and come to apply a more scientific methodologies to its preparation and recovery of its operators through a structured and holistic human-performance framework. Using several short case studies and personal experience, Harry sheds a light on the challenges of turning theory, models and frameworks into practice, from the operators perspective. His central tenet is that we can no longer take for granted many of the biopsychosocial aspects of human performance we have in the past, and must work harder than ever on building intelligent operators – that humans are more important than hardware. He concludes by offering some questions of the audience related to the impact of (bio / info) technology on humans on combat operations and challenges some assumptions related to “disenthralling ourselves” from the technology.
In 2019 Harry Moffit retired after nearly 30yr in Defence, including 20 years with the SAS as a Team Commander and as its Director of Human Performance. He continues to serve with the SAS in their active reserve. Now a practising psychologist, he is the Managing Director at Stotan Group – a human performance consultancy that works across corporate, sports and defence.
Lessons learned in implementing a psychological optimisation program for elite soldiers
CAPT Dorothea O’Conor (Holsworthy Barracks NcSW)
Over the past decade there has been increasing interest in the development and implementation of programs designed to enhance the mental and physical performance of the war fighter, under conditions of ambiguity and time pressure. In the current complex socio-technico-political operating environment, the actions of individual and small teams can have far reaching effects. Consequently, there is a need to provide individuals and teams with skills to enhance performance under pressure. Many current programs focus on promoting mental health, self-management skills and recovery in the individual, and occasionally at the small team level. There is an implicit assumption that the roll out of these types of programs will lead to improved human performance and survivability. While individual resilience and recovery skills are fundamental to high performance, these are only one element of a truly comprehensive approach. There are also significant challenges in testing the effectiveness of human performance programs, not least of which is difficulty in operationalising what optimal performance “looks” like. Across the research literature, there are inconsistencies the definition of key concepts, the metrics of performance, and the factors that constitute success. Despite these challenges, practitioners are developing and implementing programs that try to address the challenge of optimising war fighter performance. The current paper describes the development and implementation of a performance optimisation program in a group of elite soldiers. While the focus of the discussion is on the mental performance elements, a core principle of the program is the integration of physical and mental components. This program includes fundamental self-management skills, but builds on these with specific cognitive techniques, including optimising skill acquisition in training and enhancing situational awareness and decision making. The aim of this paper is to highlight some of the lessons learned, and describe approaches for overcoming some of the likely challenges practitioners may encounter in developing similar programs.
Dr Dorothea O’Conor has served in a number of capacities with Defence since 2001. She was appointed as an Army Psychology Officer in 2001, has served as a warfare officer in the RAN, a human factors and operational risk and safety specialist in the APS, as well as various appointments as a reserve army officer. She has worked in the civilian and NGO sector as a consultant, and is currently employed as the lead psychologist at the Human Performance Optimisation Centre of Excellence at Holsworthy Barracks in NSW. Dr O’Conor holds a doctorate of organisational psychology, as well as qualifications in project management, safety, and training.
Situation Awareness, Affordances, Exploration and The Regulation of Action in Performance Environments
Dr Gert-Jan Pepping (School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane)
A critical aspect of performance in sport and combat is situation awareness - the level of awareness that an individual has of a situation; their dynamic understanding of ‘what is going on around them’. For situation awareness and the prospective guidance of action in complex environments, knowledge about future opportunities for action is imperative. In terms of affordances, this knowledge is expressed relative to an individual as the future individual-environment relationships. Put simply, affordances are all the opportunities and invitations for action that individuals are surrounded by in their performance environment. In dynamic performance scenarios such as the sport- and battlefield, these relationships give rise to the emergence and dissipation of social synergies that drive (transitions between) individual- and social action. Agency and ongoing action, therefor, can to be understood as emerging from the competition between affordances when multiple actions are afforded simultaneously. In this context, exploratory action, as movement aimed at revealing information about (future) affordances, is of vital importance for situation awareness and in driving individual-environment interactions. Exploration, as an activity, is a manifestation of affordance competition. A wireless wearable IMU-technology system will be presented that captures an individual player’s situation awareness by simultaneously measuring allocentric (player on pitch position), egocentric (head and body movements that accompany and support exploration) and notational (game/training events) player data in team sport, in which athletes are presented with many affordances, related to, for instance, the ball, teammates, opponents, and space. I will present our analyses of exploration using this technology system and how our data assists in the formalisation and optimisation of exploratory activity, exploration needs and situation awareness for skilful performance on the sport- and the battlefield.
Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping is involved in interdisciplinary research of perception and action in sport and exercise. He is interested in situation awareness and the role of visual exploration in decision-making with application for the development and implementation of IMU technology in individual, sport and health situations. Gert-Jan is Head of Exercise Sciences and Deputy Head of the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences at Australian Catholic University in Brisbane.
Developing Responsive and Adaptive Artificial-Agents for Human-Machine Training Systems using Dynamical Primitives
Prof Michael J. Richardson & Dr. Rachel Kallen (Department of Psychology, CEPET, Macquarie University)
Whether considering small military units engaged in tactical actions or larger scale command-and-control networks, teams form the fundamental structure of military forces. Effective team training is therefore critical for mission success. Such training necessitates training scenarios that provide opportunities for learning task- and team-work skills simultaneously. This requires that training scenarios include intact teams and promote self-guided learning via simulated mission contexts. A major challenge to engaging in such training is ensuring that sufficient numbers of active duty personnel are able to participate, and team training programs are tailored to the individual needs of trainees. One way to overcome these challenges is to incorporate artificial agents (AAs) within the training context. The effectiveness of human-AA team training depends on the ability of AAs to adapt to human co-actors in a seamless manner. In order to enhance real-world outcomes, AAs must also incorporate natural, human-like patterns of behavioural action, decision-making, and communication. As such, ensuring effective human-AA team training requires modelling the behavioural dynamics of successful human performance and then implementing these models within the control architecture of AAs. Despite the assumed complexity of human behaviour, a growing body of research has revealed that the spatiotemporal patterning of the behavioural movements and actions that define human performance are typically low-dimensional and synergistic, and can be modelled using a small, fundamental set of dynamical action primitives. Many real-time human decision-making processes (i.e., action selection, task role or task sub-division decisions) can be modelled using simple non-linear dynamical functions or dynamical decision-making primitives. To support the latter claim, we present recent research demonstrating how these dynamical action and decision-making primitives can be employed to capture human performance within complex team contexts. Perhaps more importantly, this research also demonstrates that models composed of dynamical action and decision-making primitives can be implemented into the control architecture of AAs to generate human-AA team performance and learning outcomes equivalent to human-only teams.
Michael Richardson is Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise and Training (CEPET) at Macquarie University. His research is directed towards understanding the lawful dynamics of human perception, action, and cognition. He has expertise in experimental and applied psychology, cognitive science, human-movement science, perception-action, social and multiagent coordination, virtual-reality, complex systems, quantitative and statistical analysis methods, and dynamical modelling.
Rachel Kallen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise and Training (CEPET) at Macquarie University. Her research utilizes a framework of complex systems to investigate a range of social behaviours and systems. Bridging both basic and applied science, she has expertise in many areas of social psychology (i.e., stigma, intergroup relations, the science of diversity) as well as in cognitive science (social interaction, multiagent coordination, and dynamical modelling).
The untapped potential of flow states in military performance: paradigm issues, recent developments, and new possibilities
Dr Christian Swann (Southern Cross University)
The psychological state of flow encompasses experiential characteristics such as heightened situational awareness, effortless attention, absorption, and avoidance of distractions, while also associated with desirable outcomes such as high performance, motivation, wellbeing, and skill acquisition. Flow is therefore highly relevant in military contexts. Extensive research has been conducted in other performance domains, such as sport and music. To date, however, the potential of flow in military settings remains largely untapped. Therefore, this presentation will examine: why flow may be under-utilised in the military; recent developments on flow in sport, exercise and performance psychology; and new opportunities for studying and applying flow in military contexts. Specifically, there have been a range of conceptual and methodological issues in traditional flow research, which has been predominantly based on Csikszentmihalyi’s nine dimensions framework. Despite 45 years of research, flow has remained rare and elusive, with little progress in terms of interventions to reliably induce these states. Recently, however, new methods of interviewing have been employed which enable more recent, detailed, and chronological recall of specific flow experiences in sport and exercise. These methods have revealed a new perspective, which has a number of important implications. First, situations typically considered to involve flow were reported to include both flow and a distinct ‘clutch’ state – leading to more refined, context-specific understanding of the experience, occurrence, and outcomes of these states. Second, this new perspective indicates that both flow and clutch states are encompassed within Csikszentmihalyi’s nine dimensions framework (e.g., due to broad/vague definitions), which raises concerns over the validity of much of flow research to date. Third, each state was found to occur through different processes, with insights into the ‘ingredients’ required to induce flow and clutch states purposefully. These developments suggest – albeit tentatively – that there are now opportunities to make meaningful progress in the development and testing of interventions to induce flow (as well as clutch) states which could achieve outcomes such as enhanced performance, skill acquisition, and wellbeing. That is, there is scope for flow to play an important and practically useful role in military contexts. This presentation will conclude by providing recommendations for the study and application of flow in military contexts in order to fulfil its potential.
Dr Christian Swann is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Southern Cross University. Christian’s research is in sport, exercise and performance psychology, with particular emphasis on flow, mental health, performance under pressure, and goal-setting. He is accredited with the British Association of Sport and Exercise Psychology, as well as Exercise and Sports Science Australia (AES). Christian’s research has featured in high-profile outlets such as Scientific American Mind, the New Scientist, and national newspapers. Christian currently consults for Movember on an international project promoting mental health through community sport.