An experimental evaluation of tactical symbol-design features

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U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, 1980 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 58 pages
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Sixteen non-military participants learned each of two symbol sets (conventional, iconic) to a criterion. Each set contained three basic symbols representing unit types of armor, mechanized infantry, and infantry. After learning a symbol set, each participant was shown a series of situation displays, where some displays contained symbols coded with either perimeter-density or vector projection to convey supplementary unit-attribute information (unit strength or firepower reach) needed for typical tactical tasks. For each display, the participant was asked questions corresponding to different behavioral processes (identification, search, comparison, pattern recognition). Overall, the results suggested that iconic symbols may not necessarily be preferable to conventional symbols in certain situations; and, although the portrayal of supplemental unit information can slow some aspects of information processing, certain symbol-design features appear to create less interference than others. In a supplementary task which required integration of information from several symbols into an analytical judgment (threat value assessment), performance accuracy was found to be insensitive to the conventional versus iconic symbology comparison. The results were discussed in terms of the complexity of the implications involved in the selection of symbol design features and their correspondence with tactical concepts.

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