Abstract Title

The Vigilance Decrement and Social Facilitation

Presentation Type

Poster

Abstract

Vigilance, or the ability to maintain sustained attention over prolonged periods of time, is an important component of tasks that are used in a wide variety of settings. TSA agents, military personnel, and similar professions engage in vigilance tasks when completing jobs of national security. However, research has demonstrated that performance on these tasks declines with time on watch, a pattern referred to as the vigilance decrement. Many studies have shown that features such as time on task, task difficulty, and level of arousal all interact to influence the vigilance decrement. In addition, vigilance tasks impose considerable workload and stress on those who might perform them. One factor that has been mostly neglected in prior research is the effect of the presence of a supervisory person during a vigilance task. Social Facilitation remains an accepted construct in psychology. The Social Facilitation theory suggests that there is a tendency for people to do better on simple tasks when in the presence of others. Simply put, this implies that, whenever people are being watched by others, they will do well on things that they are already good at doing. The purpose of the present investigation is to determine the effect of the presence of a supervisory figure has on the performance, workload, and stress associated with vigilance. It was hypothesized that the presence of a supervisory figure would increase performance overall, and also attenuate the vigilance decrement, but it may also increase performance, workload, and stress. The presence of a supervisory figure in tasks that include a vigilance component may thus have positive or negative effects that have implications for industry and organizational structures. In this study, 42 undergraduates from the University of Central Florida completed measures of workload, task stress, state-trait anxiety, and perceived attitudes towards a supervisor in addition to a 24-minute vigil task. We discuss the impact a supervisory figure has on the performance on a vigilance task, as well as the perceived stress and workload associated with being monitored by a person of authority.

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The Vigilance Decrement and Social Facilitation

Vigilance, or the ability to maintain sustained attention over prolonged periods of time, is an important component of tasks that are used in a wide variety of settings. TSA agents, military personnel, and similar professions engage in vigilance tasks when completing jobs of national security. However, research has demonstrated that performance on these tasks declines with time on watch, a pattern referred to as the vigilance decrement. Many studies have shown that features such as time on task, task difficulty, and level of arousal all interact to influence the vigilance decrement. In addition, vigilance tasks impose considerable workload and stress on those who might perform them. One factor that has been mostly neglected in prior research is the effect of the presence of a supervisory person during a vigilance task. Social Facilitation remains an accepted construct in psychology. The Social Facilitation theory suggests that there is a tendency for people to do better on simple tasks when in the presence of others. Simply put, this implies that, whenever people are being watched by others, they will do well on things that they are already good at doing. The purpose of the present investigation is to determine the effect of the presence of a supervisory figure has on the performance, workload, and stress associated with vigilance. It was hypothesized that the presence of a supervisory figure would increase performance overall, and also attenuate the vigilance decrement, but it may also increase performance, workload, and stress. The presence of a supervisory figure in tasks that include a vigilance component may thus have positive or negative effects that have implications for industry and organizational structures. In this study, 42 undergraduates from the University of Central Florida completed measures of workload, task stress, state-trait anxiety, and perceived attitudes towards a supervisor in addition to a 24-minute vigil task. We discuss the impact a supervisory figure has on the performance on a vigilance task, as well as the perceived stress and workload associated with being monitored by a person of authority.